Strengths: Dynamic and intelligent web content management
Weaknesses: Requires the purchase of equipment along with a per-user price
Verdict: Fully functional, software-based appliance with a higher cost of ownership
Network Guardian is a self-contained software appliance that incorporates SmoothWall's unique dynamic and intelligent approach to web content filtering, alongside anti-spyware, anti-virus and browser exploit prevention. Dynamic content analysis is used to examine the content, context and construction of web pages in detail, so all objectionable content can be detected and blocked. Sites are classified into categories and then blocked or allowed, based on policy settings. This allows for complete dynamic protection across the enterprise.
Since this is software-based, the install is a bit more tricky. We had to download the ISO from SmoothWall and burn it to a CD and then find an unused server to install the software. Beyond that, this is a simple Linux-type install, which only took a few minutes to complete. From there we configured the IP settings on the server and then we could access the web-based GUI. This is well organised and intuitive, with a tab-based navigation structure.
There was a lot of configuration we could do with the Network Guardian. There are many types of policies and groups that can be created and configured easily, with many categories built in. This product can also plug in to the existing Active Directory structure, which makes assigning policies simple.
Documentation comprises three PDF manuals. The first is the quick-start guide to installation and setup and it provides just a quick overview. The next shows in great detail the installation of the product onto the server and setting up initial configuration. The last is the administrator guide; it gives in-depth information on advanced configuration and product features. Both the installation guide and administrator guide are well illustrated.
SmoothWall offers 30 days' free phone and email support with purchase of the product, with ongoing support as part of a maintenance agreement. The free support area of the website includes downloads, a knowledgebase and FAQ section.
At a price starting at £400 for ten users, plus the cost of extra equipment, this product is average value for the money. While it does have some nice features, there is the extra cost of equipment for hosting it.