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LAN & WAN Reviews

Add-On Features

Although you could get by quite nicely with just the free features, Untangle's Commercial Add-ons can help lock down your network even further. Pricing is per month, for 10, 50, 150, and 150+ users. I'll provide the monthly pricing for 1-10 users for reference.

PC Remote ($20) enables remote connection to hosts behind the Untangle firewall through RDP or VNC. Great for consultants and administrators.

The Remote Access Portal ($10) is a clientless SSL VPN tool. It allows access to internal resources such as webmail or network shares. It’s almost like the Remote Web Workplace you find in Microsoft's Small Business Server. It can authenticate against a local user list you make on Untangle, or AD if you use the Active Directory connector.

Active Directory Connector ($7) allows use of an AD server with the Remote Access Portal. It simplifies policy management, such as web filtering and can generate usage reports by username. Untangle tracks computers by username by running a script through a GPO you create on the AD Domain Controller

Policy Manager ($5) allows you to manage large networks by creating network access policies that apply to user names or groups. It basically provides Microsoft ISA Server-like features.

Hosted Config Backup is available only as part of the Professional Package ($25) that also bundles Live Support, Active Directory Connector, Policy Manager and Remote Access Portal. It constantly backs up your Untangle configuration and is a great feature when you have spent the time to customize your installation. It provides a quick rebuild or restore of your setup if disaster strikes, or if you decide to upgrade your Untangle hardware platform.

In Use

My experience with Untangle has been good so far. Although it's not really designed for a home network user, I did run it at home. The only hiccup I ran into was when playing Battlefield 2 online when the logins took a long time to establish due to the Attack Blocker node. Fortunately, Untangle's support forum was quick to provide a fix for this.

But Untangle is primarily designed for the business/enterprise network. Not many home users would want to invest in a high horsepower box to run this at home and it is much more than the average home user would want.

This line of thought is also why I decided to skip giving Untangle a Performance Test. Since Untangle is installed on so many different hardware platforms with varying processor speed, RAM, network cards, hard drives, etc. it's hard to provide meaningful performance data.

I will say that Untangle isn't primarily focused on routing throughput, but that doesn't mean that the product is slow. For example, an Untangle staffer reported in their forums a version or two ago that Untangle's throughput on a higher-end server was 68 Mbps. This doesn't match the fastest routers in the SmallNetBuilder Router Charts. But it's more than enough to keep up with the business broadband connection that it is likely to be protecting. I have installed Untangle on a new Dell PowerEdge R200 1U rackmount server with 2 GB of RAM and a pair of 80 GB SATA drives in RAID 1 and it runs smooth as butter.

One specification worth mentioning is that Untangle is coded to allow up to 10,000 concurrent sessions, which is in keeping with its target audience of business networks. Untangle was designed to service networks of up to 250 users, although on the forums I have seen end users report implementing it in networks much larger.

I have installed Untangle at two of my clients so far, and based on my experience with it, I plan on using it more and more. One client has an Internet connection that bursts up to 20 Mbps, a network of 7 servers so far and approximately 70 workstations. I'm happy to report that Untangle has not been a bottleneck in that setup and has been very stable. I installed it last January and I have only rebooted it once, and the reason for that reboot was to upgrade it from 5.1 to 5.2.

With this client, since installing Untangle, I have not had a single instance of hijacked browsers or malware infestations, which is a testimony to the effectiveness of the Spyware blocker. Anyone who supports networks is I'm sure familiar with the outbreak of the ZLob/Virtumond/Smitfraud Trojans over the past several months and rogue "antivirus" products such as Defender2008, XPAntivirus2009, etc.

I have found Untangle's Spam Blocker to be aggressive, perhaps a bit too aggressive, at default settings. But it was fine once I backed off the settings a bit. And the quarantine digests sent to users are very easy for them to use. I have to step into the picture only if it keeps bagging legitimate email. And then I just enter a wizard to add a sender's domain to the whitelist.

Closing Thoughts

I believe Untangle is a serious contender in the small to medium business firewall / UTM market. They are marketing their product well and getting involved with (a smart move IMO). The product is aggressively improved upon, with a steady release of product upgrades. They also listen to the users on their forums and take feedback and feature requests well.

My experience with Untangle's support has also been favorable so far and their support forums are very quick and responsive. I recently had to call their support for an issue on a recent installation and I got a live person on the phone right away.

He was very helpful and quickly remoted into the Untangle server, looked at my setup, did a few tweaks and remained on the line while I tested the fix. Phone support people are usually in a rush, anxious to hang up the phone with you as soon as they think the issue is fixed. But that was not the case with Untangle support.

Untangle's website has a great support section, including Forums, a great Wiki, detailed hardware compatibility list (because people are installing it on so many different hardware platforms), and very detailed step-by-step guides on configuring the Untangle Gateway, and all of its nodes. They also have separate downloads to virtualize Untangle in VMWare.

With the free version, you get several great features including antivirus scanning, Spyware blocking, spam filtering of your e-mail, content filtering, and reporting. And when you add the reasonably-priced Add-ons, you gain live support, configuration backup, and choices of remote access, active directory integration, and better policy management and control.

The bottom line is that Untangle gets two thumbs up from me!

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