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You are here: Security Security Reviews Cisco ISA550W Integrated Security Appliance Reviewed

Cisco ISA550W Integrated Security Appliance Reviewed

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Integrated Security Appliance
At a glance
ProductCisco ISA550W Integrated Security Appliance   [Website]
SummaryCisco's entry-level but powerful Integrated Services router combining IPsec & SSL VPN, gateway anti-virus, intrusion protection and content filters.
Pros• High VPN Throughput
• High UTM Throughput
• Cisco's SIO Security Center
Cons• Long boot time
• Sluggish menu performance
• Remote VPN Client tunnels are tough to set up

Typical Price: $369  Compare Prices  Check Amazon

Introduction

Unified Threat Management (UTM) devices are all-in-one devices that provide networking, firewall, and security solutions for small-to-medium sized networks. UTM devices typically provide a wide array of security features including anti-virus, web filtering, anti-spyware, spam controls and intrusion prevention.

UTM devices also commonly support VPN services, a rules based firewall and flexible network options. The Cisco ISA500 series are Cisco's UTM devices with all of these features, targeted at small businesses.

There are four models in the ISA500 series, the ISA550, ISA550W, ISA570 and ISA570W. The "W" denotes the wireless versions of each platform. Cisco recommends the ISA550/ISA550W for networks with up to 25 users and the ISA570/ISA570W for networks with 25-100 users. In this review, I'm going to look at the ISA550W.

The ISA550W is housed in a gray metal case with a black plastic front and external power brick. It measures 12.1”W x 7.1”D x 1.9”H, is mountable in a 19” rack and comes with mounting brackets. The ISA550W is passively cooled, so runs silently.

Cisco ISA550W front panel

Cisco ISA550W front panel

Indicator and status lights are on the front and the Ethernet ports are on the back. In addition to the Ethernet ports, the wireless antennas, a power switch, power port, Kensington security port, and a single USB 2.0 port are on the back. (The USB port is used for loading or saving various files.)

Cisco ISA550W front panel

Cisco ISA550W rear panel

Inside

The ISA550W runs on a 1.6 GHz Marvell 88F6282 CPU, with 1 GB RAM and 256 MB of flash. Other key components include a Marvell 88E6171R 7-Port Gigabit Ethernet Switch and a 2.4 GHz N300 Ralink wireless SoC, hidden under the RF shield at the bottom of the mainboard picture below.

Cisco ISA550W board

Cisco ISA550W board

Configuration

The ISA550W is managed via a web GUI, which Cisco refers to as the “embedded Configuration Utility.” If you were to deploy the ISA500 series in your business and rely on a third party to manage it for you, Cisco recommends deploying an ISA500 with the Cisco OnPlus service, which provides additional remote access to the device and monitoring options.

When you log into the ISA550W, you're presented with a useful dashboard, shown below. This dashboard provides a quick summary of device utilization, log counts, VPN status, port status, interface status, and wireless status.

Cisco ISA550W dashboard

Cisco ISA550W dashboard

To make things easy, there are six different configuration wizards. There is a basic setup wizard, dual WAN wizard, remote access VPN wizard for both IPsec and SSL, a site-to-site VPN wizard, a DMZ wizard, and a wireless wizard. I found the VPN wizards helpful.

As would be expected in a UTM, the ISA550 has quite a few configuration options. However, I found the layout of the menus easy to navigate. Main menus are listed along a panel on the left side, which can be expanded to reveal further options. Clicking on an option brings up a page with one or more tabs of configuration screens.

There are 9 different main menus, each with 4-15 submenus, some of which have additional submenus. I often put together a chart in my reviews listing the menu headers of a device, but in this case there are simply too many. Suffice it to say, the ISA550W is highly configurable.

The ISA500 series' 432 page manual covers the configurations of the ISA500 relatively well. In addition, there is a help button in the ISA550W configuration utility that brings up an online version of the manual, which is quite handy. As I'll cover in the VPN section, a few more configuration examples would be useful, though.

On the downside, boot time and menu response time on the ISA550W are very slow. It takes about three minutes for the router to boot and the ISA550W's screen response is sluggish when applying configurations. Waiting to apply configurations or to navigate from screen to screen can make configuration and administration of a device a drag. Unfortunately, I've seen menu lag on other Cisco small business devices, such as the SG500-28P switch.




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User reviews

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Average user rating from: 8 user(s)

NOTE! Please post product reviews from actual experience only.
Questions, review comments and opinions about products not based on actual use will not be published.

User Rating    [Back to Top]
Overall: 
 
3.2 Features :
 
4.6 Performance :
 
3.1 Reliability :
 
1.8
 
Ratings (the higher the better)
Features*
 
Performance*
 
Reliability*
 
Comments*
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Wish I could return it

Overall rating: 
 
3.3
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by mike
August 22, 2013
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I've had this and a Cisco ON100 for about 3 months; Cisco has EOL'd them both. I understand that the small business segment is tough, but this kind of cr*p is unacceptable. I'm having to eat the acquisition and deployment cost and now I'm also on the hook for transitioning to a new (non-Cisco) solution. This would be a minor hassle for a large organization, but for our firm of 20 people this is a major PIA.

 

Frustrated and pissed...oh yeah 11/14/2014

Overall rating: 
 
3.0
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Charles Brush
August 19, 2013
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Where to begin...support is next to nothing even with a support contract, the last firmware release 1.2.17 was an absolute disaster, and they just announced End Of Life for 11/14/2014. They are still selling the device through 11/14/2013, some with a 3 year support contract BUT ARE ENDING SUPPORT A YEAR LATER! I will never by a cisco device for my home or business ever again. Complete crap!

 

Marketing, Reality and Ciscos reputation

Overall rating: 
 
2.3
Features:
 
3.0
Performance:
 
3.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Jack
July 25, 2013
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Hi,

I bought this device at the beginning of this year and I am about to return it (as soon as I find a decent replacement from from another vendor (looking at Juniper, Zyxel and Fortinest small business devices)). I now fought for about half a year to make the security services work, I opened support cases updated firmware and spend quite some hours - all without getting it to work as expected/advertised!

The feature list is quite good and the configuration GUI is nice (although slow). However, the software is not at a maturity level I was expecting from Cisco and even security critical bugs are NOT fixed in time. The support is even suggesting to use BETA versions of their firmware to fix this and that issue, but cannot even provide schedules for new releases. Even after having updated the device firmware multiple times, the security services do not work - they are offline all the time or are only working for a few hours after rebooting the device...

Basically I think the ISA550 would be a good device, if the firmware would work as expected. However with the experiances of the last half year, I doubt that this will ever happen...

 

Reviewed by mike

Overall rating: 
 
4.3
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
4.0
Reliability:
 
4.0
Reviewed by mike
July 05, 2013
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Running firmware 1.2.17
The initial installation was smooth and had the system up and running with basic setting in about 10 minutes. Moving around the menu was pretty quick with the exception of applying settings which was a little sluggish but then again what router isn't? The only problem i've noticed was with streaming videos. Amazon Prime and Youtube HD videos ran fine over the wireless but had problems with Netflix. When I looked into it DNS would not resolve the name. Even changing DNS servers, etc did not seem to help. Anyway Radius, VPN, etc seems to be working fine so far and no reboots necessary.

 

Does not work with video traffic.

Overall rating: 
 
2.3
Features:
 
5.0
Performance:
 
1.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by dave
July 02, 2013
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Looked just what I wanted on paper and good price.......
BUT try any video through it (youtube as an example) and i came to grinding halt.
Cisco support did not get back to me with anything conclusive after a couple of days.
the community support was great and they tried to help but i really did not want to spend my time debugging a released product.
I too shipped it straight back after a week (and after spending too much time on it)

As with the others that have commented here;
I expected far better from a company like Cisco.
the code is still beta in my view.

I may take another look in six months if I haven't found something else.

 
 
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