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Introduction

NETGEAR ProSafe SSL VPN Concentrator
At a Glance
Product NETGEAR ProSafe SSL VPN Concentrator (SSL312)
Summary "Price-busting" SSL VPN appliance (based on ActiveX controls)
Pros - Easy to install and set up
- Requires only one port exposed to the internet (https TCP port 443)
- Supports up to 25 simultaneous users
- Provides a true network connection like a traditional IPsec client
- Can be purchased for under $400
Cons - Requires Internet Explorer for many of its features

In a previous article, I wrote about a software-based open-source SSL VPN solution called SSL-Explorer, which can turn a PC on your network into a very nice full-featured VPN gateway. This time we will take a look at the ProSafe SSL VPN Concentrator 25 SSL312, a newly-available hardware-based remote access SSL VPN solution from the folks at Netgear. Figure 1 below shows the front of the device where the Ethernet ports, power light, test light, and LEDs are located.

Netgear SSL312

Figure 1: Netgear SSL312

As I began to work with the SSL312, I thought to myself, "Is it really possible that Netgear could offer an enterprise-quality SSL VPN for under $400? An enterprise-quality SSL VPN such as the Juniper Netscreen SA700 costs roughly $1500." To see what the SSL312 has to offer us, let's dive in and take a closer look.

The key features of the SSL312 are:

  • Hardware support of up to 25 simultaneous VPN tunnels
  • No concurrent user restrictions
  • Ability to browse Windows file systems using VPN portal
  • WebCIFS, Telnet, FTP, SSH, WebFTP access support
  • Built-in database, MS Active Directory, LDAP, and RADIUS authentication support
  • Remote access of desktop using Terminal Services and VNC
  • Access using zero-footprint VPN client (ActiveX control)
  • Automatic cache cleanup after session termination support (ActiveX control)
  • Port forwarding support (ActiveX control)
  • Session inactivity timeouts

A web browser that supports Microsoft ActiveX (i.e. Internet Explorer) is required since much of the tunneling/port forwarding features of the SSL312 are based on ActiveX components. Netgear recommends using Internet Explorer 6.5.1 or above. I should mention that because the ActiveX controls aren't used in the web management interface for configuring the SSL312, you can use other web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox to set up the SSL312. It is also important to note that Netgear is working diligently to convert the ActiveX components over to pure JAVA so that any modern browser that supports JAVA may be used.

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