Networking

Product Spotlight: Barracuda Networks SSL-VPN

Derek Schauland looks at the features of the Barracuda SSL-VPN, a browser-based VPN appliance, in this product spotlight.

Remote access to corporate resources is becoming common place within many organizations. IT staff require access from the road, just in case they are out of the office and receive a help desk call. Road warriors require access to files and documents or maybe even their desktops while traveling to visit a customer. There are many ways to enable this type of access, some secure, some not so secure, but the SSL-VPN appliance from Barracuda Networks makes it very simple to provide browser-based VPN to a number of employees while working with your existing security appliances and firewalls.

Specifications

The Barracuda SSL-VPN comes in several flavors:

Model

Concurrent Connections

180

15

280

25

380

50

480

100

680

500

The unit plugs into your network either inside the firewall, which requires configuration changes to route SSL traffic to the new device, or in the DMZ where it will forward requests into your environment. In the box you will find a quick-start configuration guide, the SSL-VPN appliance, and a power adapter.

Supported operating systems:
  • Windows 7
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows XP
Hardware requirements:

An Internet connection is required to access the VPN: there are no other hardware requirements on the PC end.

Who's it for?

The SSL-VPN is ideal for organizations that need to add remote connectivity for their users without worrying about clients being installed and maintained on their PCs or a device being configured to live in their home office.

What problem does it solve?

The SSL-VPN allows access to published Citrix applications, remote desktop sessions, network shares, and even supports a client to allow tunneling to specific machines or devices to happen behind the scenes. There are no applications to install for typical use and for tunneling; a client based on Java can be downloaded after login. The process for the user becomes very straight forward.

Security is also a concern when allowing access to your network from the outside. The SSL-VPN addresses this by integrating with Active Directory or allowing the administrator to create and manage the user database directly on the device. When a user connects to the device, they need to log on and when they disconnect; the session is terminated and does not stay open constantly.

Standout features

Antivirus and malware checking: When a file is copied to the network through the VPN, the file is checked for viruses as it is moved to the network.

Easy configuration: The plug and play nature of the device eases the workload on the IT staff.

Simple to use: Users within an organization simply point their browser to an address or host on the Internet and log in. Items they are able to access appear on  a desktop style list once logged in.

Immediate replacement packages: Barracuda offers a license option for immediate replacement which brings some peace of mind in the event that the device malfunctions or needs to be replaced.

Figure A

At-a-glance information for the administrator

Figure B

User homepage after login

What's wrong?

Some of the larger models can get a bit pricey, so consider the number of users that will connect to the device before ordering.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

In today's workforce, employees want to be productive from everywhere they might be, both in the office and out. Traditional VPNs are very useful for organizations but require specific applications on the client PC and/or devices, configured to allow a point-to-point VPN connection. With an SSL-VPN, the client is a Web browser on the PC and a network or VPN logon. The device takes care of the rest, including auditing of sessions and users connecting to the device. This ability to track the usage of the VPN can make justification very simple for IT and management.

About Derek Schauland

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

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