SmoothWall Corporate Guardian 5 review

Price when reviewed

Despite many vendors falling under the spell, SmoothWall has so far resisted the temptation to supply its security software in a complete appliance. From the customer’s point of view, this makes sense, as we’ve seen all too many vendors thinking that an appliance entitles them to charge far more than the hardware is actually worth. SmoothWall’s products leave you to supply the hardware of your choice, and a bonus is that for smaller businesses they can run on a modestly specified PC.

SmoothWall Corporate Guardian 5 review

SmoothWall’s Corporate Guardian 5 adheres to this philosophy and is aimed at businesses that require web content filtering and anti-virus scanning but already have base firewall services in place. Installation is a swift affair. We picked a dual 1.4GHz Xeon system with a LSI Logic Ultra320 controller and SCSI hard disk, and booted it from the product CD-ROM. The routine runs through setting up the network port and gateway details, cleans off the hard disk and then installs itself, and the whole process takes around five minutes.

The software operates in two modes: transparent or non-transparent. The former is handy if you want to apply a blanket policy to all users, as it redirects all web traffic through the proxy without the need to configure each PC. However, the software does offer extensive rules-based policies that can be applied to different users and groups, although these will only function in non-transparent mode. This requires each PC to be configured to use the proxy, but activates a range of authentication methods, including a local user database or querying an LDAP server.

The remote management interface is fairly easy to navigate, although we did notice on the Information page that Corporate Guardian isn’t dual processor aware. Anti-virus scanning uses the open-source ClamAV, and signature updates can be run as often as every hour. However, SmoothWall advised us that although ClamAV updates are free, most of its customers use the ICAP server redirection feature, which allows them to choose their own AV software. With ClamAV running, all file downloads will be cached and scanned, and users receive a message advising them of this procedure. You can elect to allow specific file types through without being scanned, and this can be based on a file category or specific extensions.

Web content filtering uses block lists of URL categories and phrases, which need to be downloaded first. There’s plenty to choose from, and you can create multiple blocking lists and apply them to different groups of users, allowing usage policies to be customised to suit your business. Users that try to access a blocked site will receive a curt message in their browser advising them of this, and also that the attempt has been logged. We found the software quite versatile, as you can add custom phrases to the blocking lists, select specific file types to be blocked and define time periods that have additional category blocks, which can be applied to selected groups.

Corporate Guardian 5 impressed with its ease of use and extensive reporting facilities. Anti-virus options are limited, but its versatility means it can be customised to suit a range of business requirements. So if you have an old PC looking for a new lease of life, the answer could be SmoothWall.

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