We’ve been using a Watchguard Firebox SOHO 6 for some time now - it’s been sitting quietly protecting a small office network with an ADSL connection. However, it does have some limitations – a lack of support for 802.11g wireless for starters – so the new range of Firebox X Edge appliances piqued our curiosity as a potential upgrade.
As a basic plug-and-play appliance the SOHO 6 has worked very well for us requiring virtually no intervention during its stay in the office. The new Firebox X Edge appliances aim to offer the same ease of use but Watchguard has focused more on their VPN capabilities allowing them to integrate with its new Core and Peak appliances. However, the focus in this review will be on the small business angle where we will be looking at the Firebox X15w as a standalone solution.
Out of the box the X15w provides a good range of features as you get an eight port Fast Ethernet switch, two WAN ports and an 802.11b/g wireless access point. The basic appliance provides an SPI firewall, DMZ capabilities and improved wireless security. Watchguard also offers a range of upgrades including its WebBlocker service and WAN failover option. After registering with Watchguard’s support site the appliance is licensed for up to thirty users.
You actually have seven Ethernet ports for general network use as the eighth provides an optional network connection. This is essentially a DMZ (demilitarized zone) where you can place servers or other systems that can be accessed from the Internet but are not part of the internal or trusted network. The second WAN port can only be enabled once the WAN failover upgrade has been applied which costs an additional £112. With a second ISP account you can link another ADSL or cable modem which will be used if the primary link goes down. Alternatively, you can plug a PSTN modem into the serial port to act as a secondary dial-up link.
It’s been a long wait for support for 802.11g wireless in the Firebox SME products and along with this you get improved security as well. As expected SSID masking, MAC address blocking and 64/128-bit WEP are on the menu and the X15w now adds WPA encryption. The wireless portion of the network can be disabled at any time and another useful feature is the appliance’s bridging capabilities as you can restrict access for wireless users to either the optional or trusted network.