First Look: SonicWall’s Trusted Zone Of Wireless Access

Wire-free network access is changing the way small businesses work. It’s less expensive to deploy that conventional wired networks because new users can be added in seconds without expensive cabling. Wireless access also allows employees to work anywhere — from the lobby to the conference room to the great outdoors.

There are two prerequisites that a small business must consider before adding wireless connectivity to an office — the system must be easy to setup and maintain, and it must be secure.

SonicWall, a company well known for its enterprise-class Internet security appliances, will be releasing a new wireless gateway product mid-month that addresses these small business imperatives. The SOHO TZW, short for trusted zone for wireless, allows small businesses to provide real, secure wireless access for employees and visitors alike.

John Gordineer, product line manager for SonicWall, said cheap wireless access points typically create more problems than solutions.

“WEP is fundamentally insecure,” Gordineer said. “WEP data encryption is solid, but its key system is flawed. There’s not too much in the way of authentication, either.”

WEP flaws are generally known and widely exploited. WEP uses RC4 encryption for building key codes. Commonly available tools, such as AirSnort or WEPCrack, can root out keys in as little as five hours. IPSec, short for Internet Protocol Security, solves many of these problems, but it can be difficult to implement and manage for small businesses with limited IT resources.

Most wireless security solutions end up cobbled together with wired security systems. The result is that firewalls, anti-virus and content filtering systems are compromised when wireless security fails. SonicWall’s solution for these types of issues is to provide a single device for total network security — enforced by the SOHO TZW.

SonicWall replaces WEP security with IPSec 3DES encryption. It also provides additional layers of security, such as stateful inspection, firewalling, anti-virus and content filtering systems in a single, integrated appliance. Gordineer said the SOHO TZW provides absolute security for local area networks — wired and wireless.

“The unit is “bulletproof,” Gordineer said. “Now small businesses can safely implement wireless into their networks.”

In addition to replacing WEP with IPSec, SonicWall replaces general authentication with user specific password access. The SOHO TZW supports RADIUS authentication for LDAP, SecureID and similar programs.

Managing user authentication and key codes have typically been a barriers to effective deployment of wireless connectivity in a small office setting. That’s where SonicWall’s Web-based access management programming comes in handy.

SonicWall’s access management program is simple yet flexible. It’s relatively easy to create multiple zones of security for wired workers, wireless workers and non-paying guest access through its newly designed Web management interface.

Gordineer explained that the initial setup consists of connecting the WAN port to a broadband modem and connecting the LAN port to a wired network. Next, add the SonicWall software to the notebooks that will be allowed to access the wireless network and have users authenticate their connection. Once authenticated, workers wireless access is secure. It’s that simple.

“Your employees have very secure wireless access to the Internet and company data, while guest access can be provided to the Internet only — not your entire network,” Gordineer said. “You simply choose the type of scenario you have at your office and rules for access will be configured automatically. Wizards remove the complexity of setting up a wireless network”

The base unit configuration of the SOHO TWZ can handle 25 nodes — plenty of access for the typical small office — and is upgradeable to 50 nodes. Right now, the SOHO TZW supports nearly any third-party 802.11-b wireless card with no special drivers required. But an upgrade to 802.11-g PC cards is in the offing.

Gordineer said that upgrades to 802.11-g would likely be handled on a trade-in basis. So there’s no need to worry about which type of wireless access your network will support today or tomorrow, should 802.11-g become the norm.

The SOHO TZW is priced at $899 and will be made available through regular sales channels in about two weeks. Resellers provide technical support, and SonicWall provides a range of premium phone and e-mail support services as well.

The SOHO TZW from SonicWall might not remove every barrier to setting up a wireless network at your small business, but it does go a long way to overcome security and setup issues.

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