Over the past few weeks, I have been evaluating various gateways for Internet-facing devices for the small office or home office (SOHO). This functionality in this space continues to impress me, and the best part is that a lot of it is available for free. I am currently working with the Untangle Gateway Platform and have been quite satisfied with the robust functionality, as well as ease of use.

Untangle takes the standard functionality in the open source-based gateway products and does one better on the rest by providing a very intuitive interface to configure for your needs. The approach is simple: provide all the best open source products for a gateway solution in one place and allow the administrator to select from them to configure the Untangle product as desired. Within Untangle, the virtual rack feature makes this quite easy to build out the gateway solution. The virtual rack tool allows for features to be dropped into use within the gateway from the available application library. Figure A shows a virtual rack with the Web filter and firewall roles “dropped in” for use:
Figure A

Intuitive management and ease of setup will allow these tools to make successful inroads to new organizations. The virtual rack tool of Untangle is a prime example of this, as many appliances can deliver the basic applications but the frequently cumbersome setup can make adoption of these technologies limited.

The Untangle appliance has 12 applications available in the free open source version. Also available are services including DHCP, DNS, and port forwarding. Beyond the free applications are six add-ons that provide more robust functionality geared toward the SOHO and commercial use. These include robust policy creation, Active Directory integration, remote support tools, and advanced virus protection.

The installation of Untangle is straightforward and can be done in less than one hour on general purpose hardware or a virtual machine. Untangle also provides the option to purchase pre-installed servers for use as an appliance. An Untangle gateway has relatively low hardware requirements, with up to 300 users being able to be serviced by one processor at 1.6 GHz, 2 GB of RAM, and only 40 GB of hard drive space.

The Untangle network gateway is a free download from the Untangle Web site and interactive guides, forums, and demos are available on the site Wiki.