SonicWall moves downmarket

SonicWall moves downmarket

SonicWall has released of a low-cost firewall device aimed at small businesses and designed to allow remote users to communicate via a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

The NZ$670 TZ 150 firewall combines deep packet inspection capability with SonicWall's Gateway Anti-virus and Intrusion Protection Service in an effort to prevent viruses, worms, trojans, and other dangerous files from infiltrating small-business networks.

However, the protection service only comes as a 30-day free trial, at which point it must be renewed for an annual list price of NZ$340. So although SonicWall bills the TZ 150 as the "first sub-$670 gateway anti-virus firewall for small businesses," the functional cost of the product is more than $1000.

The subscription fee, however, does not come as a surprise to Pete Lindstrom, research director at Spire Securities. "It's borderline deceptive, yet not extremely unreasonable," Lindstrom said. "Subscription services nickel and dime you to death, that's how they make their money," he said.

The TZ 150 is designed for small-business networks of up to 10 computers, though the firewall works best with two to six users, said John Gordineer, SonicWall product line manager. The product itself, similar in size to a VHS cassette at 115mm by 178mm, hooks up directly to a company's modem or router and has integrated ports for networked computers on its reverse side.

The TZ 150 uses deep packet inspection technology, which digs into Internet traffic packets to identify any threatening code or data within a packet and automatically begins to block threats, instead of just scanning the header information for threats as some other firewall technologies do. The firewall receives constant updates from SonicWall's Gateway Anti-virus and Intrusion Protection Service to identify new and evolving threats, Gordineer said.

There are potential trade-offs to deep packet inspection firewalls however. Some industry observers say that the complexity of deep packet inspection slows down Internet transmission speed.

"Since you are adding more filtering capability and intelligent analysis capability, ultimately a (TZ 150) would be slower, I expect," Lindstrom said.

Besides simple firewall service, the product's other major feature is its VPN capability, which serves two main purposes. First, it allows all the users of a VPN to connect to another network securely. Secondly, it allows remote users to log into a small-business network securely from outside of the office.

With its relatively low price, Gordineer said it is realistic for businesses to not only buy a TZ 150 for the office, but additional ones for workers to set up in their homes. "A real estate officer may want access to the company network on a regular basis, so he may set up a TZ 150 at home because of its compelling price point," he said.

Not only may the low price of the product interest small businesses, but possibly individual consumers as well, said Spire's Lindstrom. People with an interest in technology might have an interest in purchasing one for private use. Nevertheless, the subscription fee will probably effect consumers' decision to buy the unit.

"When people find out about the subscription fee, (SonicWall) should be aware that there may be some annoyed customers out there," Lindstrom said.

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