Worried about viruses, worms, hackers, spam, and unwanted Web content? IBM released a new security appliance this week that promises to simplify and fortify small business networks.
Called IBM Proventia Network Multi-Function Security, the appliance offers what IBM is calling "industrial strength" enterprise-level security at a low cost for the company that doesn't happen to have a staff of security experts in house to monitor and manage the firm's firewalls and intrusion attacks.
There are four models, depending on the size of the business. The first, MX4006, is adequate for companies with up to 50 employees (users). The top model, MX5110, can handle up to 3,000 users, taking it far beyond the advertised "small business" category and clearly placing it in the sights of medium-sized firms.
The different models have different form factors, and the second size up, the MX0804, which can handle up to 1,250 users, is designed for the desktop and has an enclosure. The smallest one, MX4006, fits either a 1U rack or a desktop enclosure. The top two are designed for a 19-inch rack, but will also fit into a desktop enclosure. Those that don't come with an enclosure have rail kits.
Needless to say, each model supports different transmission speeds since network traffic at larger organizations will be greater. The MX4006 supports only 15 Mbps, but the MX5110 supports 200 Mbps. The intervening MX0804 and MX5008 support 125 Mbps and 150 Mbps, respectively.
The units are quite efficient in terms of power and each draws only 2 amps. They can be plugged into either a 110 or 220 outlet and don't require an air-conditioned room, being quite comfortable in an office that stays between 67 degrees and 130 degrees F. The upper ranges presumably are in anticipation of their being located in a building in Arizona that suddenly loses power and has its air conditioning unit knocked out. At this temperature, all the employees have left and are now completely disinterested in whether anyone hacks into the company's network or not.
The efficiency of the units can be seen in their design to utilize the Internet for communications. Companies don't need to have an elaborate network before installing these devices since they can operate over a VPN. This can be a savings to a small business as it allows for leveraging the Internet for communications.
In terms of what the device does, or can do, it first provides the business with a firewall that is considerably more robust than anything that is configured on each desktop with software. It has what IBM calls an "intrusion prevention system" (IPS) that helps to protect the network by blocking suspicious behavior before it can do any harm. The anti-spam filter is designed to keep the younger and more sensitive employees from being exposed to those ludicrous ads that promise enhancements to the male anatomy, longer and stronger nights, or "best pain meds" from Canada. The device also restricts users from downloading spyware and other malicious code and even prevents them from surfing sites that host spyware.
The anti-virus program promises the latest technology that defends against zero-day viruses with the more advanced behavioral-based defenses. The current crop of nasty malware apparently can spew out thousands of virus variants before the commercial virus fighters can identify and design fixes. The only way to defend against these is by watching the program's behavior and isolating it early. Proventia Network Multi-Function Security has this capability. Anti-virus software updates are handled automatically, so the device also always has the latest virus definitions onboard.
Worker productivity is a concern to employers today, and it's common knowledge that some people spend half their time at work browsing through YouTube or Facebook when they should be crunching numbers to meet a deadline so the company can close its books at the end of the quarter. Proventia's Web filtering capabilities prevent Web surfing to "inappropriate" or dangerous sites. It may not guarantee that all the employees are working instead of goofing off, but it may help ensure that they respect and observe various regulatory compliance issues.
Business owners will also get a picture of what's been going on with respect to network security when they have a Proventia appliance, according to IBM. The device will take the raw statistics associated with network activity and transform the data into intuitive and informative reports.
Professional installation is available, though probably not necessary. The device comes with a one-year warranty, and support for the device is available later through IBM, which offers a performance-based service-level agreement for those who wish it.
The Proventia Network Multi-Function Security appliance is part of a host of products IBM is introducing this quarter to support SMBs, and it looks as though it might have a very simple solution to what is becoming an intimidating and somewhat overwhelming problem for SMBs today in the area of securing the network against the threats emerging in a world increasingly dependent on the Internet.