Security Fit for a Small Business

By Lauren Simonds | Posted November 15, 2005

Unified Threat Management, or UTM, sounds more like a function of Homeland Security than anything a small business might need, but that term represents the best way to keep your networks and e-mail safe from the wide and ever-growing barrage of electronic threats like viruses, spam, malware, spyware, adware and phishing.

ServGate, a Milpitas, Calif.-based company specializing in UTM and makers of the EdgeForce network security appliance platform, has added a new weapon to its line of threat management defenses — the EdgeForce M Series. The M series combines a hardware firewall with VPN technology and anti-virus software from the customers' choice of either McAfee or Computer Associates.

The series also offers anti-spam protection from McAfee and SurfControl's Web filtering technology, which blocks classes of URLs so you can control access to inappropriate content and automatically screen software downloads for any embedded spyware threats.

Atchson Fraser, ServGate's vice president of marketing, said that the anti-virus software works on the network level, supplementing the anti-virus software on client desktops. "It provides a multi-layer defense by locking all the doors. You've got EdgeForce on the network and Norton on the individual PCs," he said.

The EdgeForce M Series is intended to be easy to use, always a draw for small business. "The appliances were built for small business, not for IT experts" he said. "We offer 'best-of-breed' hardware and software and partner with proven, trusted technology leaders. We pre-integrate everything you need in one device. You set up the parameters once, and that's it — all of the different protective elements are set."

The Little Purple Box
The M series appliance is a purple, all-in-one box designed to sit behind the router. It filters inbound and outbound traffic and block digital threats before they can enter your network.

The series consists of five different models starting with the M30, which handles up to 30 people. The series scales up to the M700 and its 700-seat capability. The product names loosely track the size of the organization. Here's where each model fits in the realm of the company's UTM platform:

  • EdgeForce M30: $1,095, for small businesses and organizations that need an all-in-one firewall, VPN and gateway content filtering solution
  • EdgeForce M100: $2,995, for small- and medium-sized businesses with branch offices and remote locations
  • EdgeForce M200: $3,995, for fast-growing small- and medium-sized companies that extend business operations across larger business partners and supply chains
  • EdgeForce M400: $8,995, for larger enterprises and organizations with employees deployed across wide geographic locations
  • EdgeForce M700 $13,995, for extended enterprise and service provider deployments

The main product differentiator is the firewall throughput, which is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). As with any UTM product, enabling more features, i.e., anti-virus, anti-spam, intrusion scanning, etc., takes a toll on performance.

If you plan on using all of the appliance's protective features, and you're bumping up against the top end of the device's user capacity (for example you're considering the M30 and you have 28 employees), you might think about stepping up to the next level. "Consider your company's growth potential," advised Fraser. "Think about what you'll need tomorrow as opposed to what's good enough for today."

The M Series supports any and all IP-based networks.

Pricing
ServGate's unusual pricing structure sets the EdgeForce M Series apart from its competition. Other threat-defense companies require a separate license for each person in the organization, typically charging a fee per seat, per month (or per year). ServGate charges an annual fee for one license that covers an unlimited number of seats, with maintenance and updates included in the first year.

"It's one-license-fits-all for your entire organization," said Fraser. "The M series simplifies how you acquire, deploy and manage security. One Web-based console lets you manage all this functionality at an affordable price."

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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