SurfControl Web Filter 5.5
Strengths: Highly customisable, flexible, excellent documentation
Weaknesses: Upper end of the pricing spectrum, deployment could be easier
Verdict: A perennial entry in this class, SurfControl Web Filter provides flexible, reliable web filtering - albeit at a higher price than we would expect
SurfControl is, arguably, the granddaddy of the web content filtering class. Supplied as software, this product requires its own server platform running Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and SQLServer. Its straightforward drag-and-drop rules engine makes policy creation easy. However, deployment, setup, and configuration were a bit more demanding than for similar products.
SurfControl Web Filter may be integrated with Windows, ISA, Novell Border Manager, Blue Coat, Check Point, Citrix, Cisco, Juniper and others. The product's policy engine allows application of policies in a flexible manner and there is a Mobile Filter that extends SurfControl's capability to remote users. The solution also integrates with other SurfControl products.
The documentation is extremely strong. The installation guide provides detailed deployment instructions and setup information, while the administrators' manual offers configuration rule management information. All guides include numerous diagrams and screen shots. We were especially impressed with the example deployments and network scenarios. Reporting is extensive and offers clear insight into internet user activity.
SurfControl provides the typical URL filtering and content filtering, as well as peer-to-peer, instant messaging, streaming media, file downloads and web-based e-mail filtering. There is also protection against viruses, spyware and some blended threats. The product allows administrators to create their own categories and threat definitions. The internet threat database contains more than 20 million entries and is updated regularly.
Support is broken down by platform. The website provides additional documentation, upgrade information and instructions, common errors, and access to technical support, plus technical white papers, a knowledge base and training opportunities. Phone support is available during business hours.
Cost per user is at the high end of the scale, and this includes standard support and maintenance for the first-year. Given that the product requires its own server and Microsoft SQL Server, this makes cost of ownership relatively high, especially for large organisations.