Panda Virtual GateDefender Performa review
A classy virtual security appliance that’s easy to deploy, packed with features and offers very good value
Panda Security has always had a keen focus on SMBs, and it now widens its gaze to include those moving to virtualised environments. The new Virtual GateDefender Performa (VGP) is certified as VMware-ready and provides the same UTM features as its appliance-based brethren – but without the additional hardware costs.
VGP supports VMware ESX Server 4 and above, but you can cut costs further by using the free VMware Server 2. For testing, we loaded it on the ESX Server 4 system, where we imported the supplied OVF template as a new virtual machine (VM).
VGP functions as a transparent gateway, so your host system will require two network ports. We created a second virtual switch on our host, assigned it to the VGP VM, and made sure both ports were set to promiscuous mode before dropping the host system between our firewall and LAN.
Management is no different to the appliance-based Performas: you point a web browser at the VM’s dedicated management address. The well-designed console opens with a graphical summary of the five main security functions, plus appliance performance and traffic throughput.
You can change the report period for the status graphs from one day to the past year, and enlarge the graph for closer examination. Move the mouse pointer over a graph title and the window below changes to a group of coloured blocks showing which protocols the service has been enabled for.
A default protection profile covers all users and systems with a single policy. This can be refined by creating your own profiles that use network definitions for IP address groups, users and domains. LDAP servers can also be used to download lists of AD users and groups.
Definitions are used in profiles, allowing you to assign a range of security settings and AUPs to various users, groups and systems. Each profile can have unique configurations for the anti-malware, content filter, anti-spam and web filtering modules, or selected ones can be switched off.
Profiles are then assigned to sets of definitions; you can even apply them to groups of email users. General scanning performance has been improved by moving malware detection into the cloud and teaming it with a local cache of previously detected malware.
Web filtering is handled by Commtouch, which provides more than 60 URL categories to block or allow. HTTP plus HTTPS traffic can be checked; it performed well, with few sites slipping past.
The Cloudmark anti-spam service delivers a high detection accuracy with few false-positives. Inbound and outbound mail can be scanned, and messages classed as spam and probable spam may be blocked, tagged or quarantined on the virtual appliance.
A valuable feature of VGP is its ability to protect other VMs running on the same host system. We were running VMs for a wide range of Windows systems on the same host, and once they’d been assigned to the correct virtual switch, they all came under its protection.
VGP shows how much cash you can save by virtualising your security appliance, with prices starting at only £364 for 25 users. It’s simple to install and provides an impressive range of security measures that perform extremely well.