GFI WebMonitor 2013 UnifiedProtection review

Price when reviewed

Security appliances are great for SMBs that like all their gateway security in a single box, but those that don’t want all the features could end up paying over the odds. GFI’s WebMonitor offers an alternative: focusing on web content security, it runs on your own choice of hardware and Windows OS.

Three versions are available: the WebFilter Edition, which enforces policies for web content filtering, browsing time and media streaming; the WebSecurity Edition, which provides GFI’s ThreatTrack, antivirus scanning, phishing protection and IM app controls; and the UnifiedProtection Edition, which we’re reviewing here and offers all these features.

GFI has clearly been very busy, since WebMonitor 2013 delivers a heap of new features, including a revamped admin interface. This is much smarter than previous versions, and provides a lot more information.

GFI has amalgamated the previously separate ReportPack with the console. You receive the same level of detailed reports, but you no longer need to set up a separate SQL database and link it to WebMonitor. There’s now consideration for mobile workers, with the new remote agent extending control to their laptops. It doesn’t provide virus protection, but enforces predefined web-filtering rules using GFI’s WebGrade cloud service.

We loaded WebMonitor on a Windows Server 2012 host and opted for the gateway mode, which uses two network ports. The simple proxy mode needs one network port, but requires your router to block all web traffic coming from the LAN.

The WebMonitor Dashboard view shows bandwidth and activity trends along with the top web categories, domains and users. A handy sidebar keeps you posted on detected threats, along with general filtering and antivirus activity. There’s more information about web activity in the graphs and tables, which show the top categories, bandwidth consumption and user activity. Under the real-time traffic tab, you can keep an eye on users, and if you think anyone is hogging too much bandwidth, you can terminate their connection.

The software also includes dual antivirus scanning engines from Bitdefender and Vipre, with the former our A-Listed choice for internet security. You can add Kaspersky as well, but it will cost more per seat.

Users must be pointed at the WebMonitor proxy service; you can set this manually, via Windows Group Policy Object or WPAD. It’s also possible to request proxy authentication before users are permitted web access. Basic mode requires users to authenticate with the WebMonitor host using local user accounts. A better method is to use Integrated mode, which uses Active Directory (AD) credentials.

For control over web access, WebMonitor uses policies, which can be applied to local or AD users, groups and IP addresses. For filtering, you can choose from more than 80 WebGrade categories and block, allow or quarantine them. You can also add policy exceptions and use schedules to determine when the policy is active. Quota policies allow selected users to browse certain web categories but restrict how long they can access them for. Limits can be based on daily, weekly or monthly usage, or you can apply download limits.

GFI WebMonitor 2013 UnifiedProtection

Separate web-filtering policies are created for remote users, and whenever users leave the LAN these come into play. A software agent collects data on activity and uploads it to the WebMonitor server when the user returns.

Virus-scanning policies define which engines to use and whether infections should be deleted or quarantined. When downloading files, users can be sent a web page showing their progress, and only when the file is deemed safe will they be allowed to save it.

IM controls are basic, since policies only enable or disable all access to a small range of apps, including MSN Client and Facebook Chat. The same applies to social networking sites. You’ll also need to enable the HTTPS scanning feature for these.

Finally, WebMonitor provides a heap of customisable predefined reports that can be run manually or scheduled regularly and emailed in PDF, DOC or XLS formats. It’s also possible to define security for the console and decide what functions users can access.

WebMonitor has benefited greatly from the work GFI has put into it and is much slicker than previous versions. The new console is a big improvement, and it offers stiff web security measures. Small businesses that baulk at the cost of an appliance should take a closer look.


Software subcategory Internet utilities

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