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Hardware

Hands-on with the SnapGear SG565 all-in-one access appliance

For an important conference or exhibition where you might need to set up a small internal network, one should be leery of utilizing a consumer-grade device. However, other than lugging your rack mount enterprise gateways along, the SnapGear SG565 all-in-one access appliance might just fit the bill.

Most of us have faced a situation like this one: we are either tasked to set up a small network for a remote branch or are asked to put together a temporary intranet for a conference or exhibition. What are the options in situations where additional functionality or robustness is called for?

I had the opportunity to examine the SnapGear SG565, which I used for about a week as I put it through its paces. How does it rate? Let's take a look at it.

SnapGear SG565

SnapGear SG565 overview

The SnapGear SG565 by Secure Computing is targeted at both large and small branch offices, as well as satellite locations and temporary offices. One interesting feature is its ability to utilize a USB-based 3G data modem as a WAN device. I was able to get it running with my Huawei USB E270 HSPA modem, definitely a lifesaver in places without wired Internet connectivity or in regions where ADSL reliability is spotty.

Installation was as straightforward as that of a consumer home router. After receiving a DHCP address via one of its wired Ethernet ports, I was about to log in through its Web interface with the default user-id and password. From there, I enabled the wireless network before reconnecting via wireless.

The Web interface was plain at best, through a casual exploration quickly shows just how extensive its features are.

SnapGear SG565 features

What impressed me the most about the SG565 was the sheer number of features that can be found. You will certainly not find yourself lacking in any features by getting this appliance. It won't be possible to go into everything, but I'll broadly categorize some of its capabilities into a few sections and give my comments accordingly.

Firewall/Security

As expected, the SG565 is able to filter Web requests by URL. It also has the ability to perform transparent scanning of various protocols such as POP, SMTP, and HTTP downloads with the open-sourced ClamAV antivirus engine. To avoid unnecessarily tying down the appliance, a maximum file size beyond which attachments will be ignored can also be defined. In addition, the self-updatable ClamAV could even access a network share as a temporary storage to help speed up the scanning process.

In addition, the SG565 could serve as a VPN end point (server) for PPTP and L2TP protocols, as well as the client, connecting with other VPN servers to form a secured network over the Internet.

Management

While I was unable to put this aspect to the test, the SG565 touts the ability to be managed by a Central Management Server, or CMS. Organizations considering making a major rollout of the SG565 with the CMS should probably ask for a demonstration or trial of the CMS system first. It's nice to know that there is an upgrade path available where management is concerned though.

What struck me was its ability to perform a packet capture on its physical interfaces — a feature normally reserved for enterprise networking devices. Security events or exceptions could be logged to either its local or to another remote syslog server.

Networking

Another feature that caught my attention is its ability to serve as a Web cache. A default cache of 16 or 32 megabytes can be defined, though it is also possible to plug in a USB flash drive and utilize it as well. I plugged in a 1GB USB flash drive in my case, which worked just fine.

Further boosting its ability as an all-in-one appliance, the SG565 can also be used to act as an NTP time server. In addition, it is also possible to tap its services for storage and print sharing by means of its two USB ports. Should you require them, various high availability and connection failover options — between a WAN connection and 3G USB modem, for example — are also available.

Conclusion

The appliance was rock stable in the week where I used it as the de facto gateway in my home office; I was unfortunately not able to simulate usage in an actual small-office environment. Still, if the plethora of carefully integrated features is any indication, the SG565 is robust and should be able to scale without any problems.

The list price is USD$818.00 or SGD$1,063 in Singapore, though you might be able to get it cheaper.

The downside of the SG565 might well be its sheer number of features. Now, don't get me wrong: its full range of capabilities is a good value for the price. However, users with simpler requirements  or those who fail to see the need for its security features might well bypass the SnapGear SG565 for something cheaper.

If you expect to tap into at least a few of its security features, then you will do well to seriously look at this Secure Computing offering.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

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