Review: Secure Remote Access With A Price That Is Right For SMBs

The ProSafe SSL312 will grant secure access while barring outsiders. It provides clientless, Web-based remote access for up to 25 concurrent users. (The appliance is best-suited for businesses with fewer than 100 employees, according to the CRN Test Center.)

With a list price of $545, the ProSafe SSL312 is more palatable for SMBs than something like the Cisco ASA 5500 VPN Edition, which also supports 25 users but costs more than $2,000.

The ProSafe SSL312 provides high-performance remote access using the SSL protocol and Transport Layer Security (TLS) with the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256). SSL allows secure servers to authenticate with SSL-enabled clients, including Web browsers, so that an encrypted connection can be established. This lets a mobile user connect to a corporate network securely from browser software such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari.

Once connected, users can access e-mail and other office productivity applications. Remote management utilities also can be accessed securely.

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The ProSafe SSL312 is easy to deploy since solution providers don't have to install VPN clients on remote computers. Instead, secure access is furnished by a cross-platform download that's automatically pushed to remote computers in a transparent manner.

There also are no licensing restrictions, and the SSL312 easily integrates with most user-authentication repositories, including Microsoft Active Directory, LDAP and RADIUS. It also will work with Netgear's ProSafe firewalls, as well as third-party units.

The ProSafe SSL312 includes two 10/100 Ethernet ports and a console port for serial DTE remote management purposes. A computer must be set up as a management station for configuring the SSL312. The computer must contain an Ethernet adapter and be configured with a static IP address and subnet mask. The ProSafe SSL VPN Concentrator 25 software also must be installed on the computer.

Once the management station is set up, solution providers are required to log into the ProSafe SSL312's management interface from a browser and configure a password, SSL certificate and other system settings, such as user and group, authentication domains and portal layouts, and network resource objects.

In the event of system trouble, the ProSafe SSL312's management interface includes system status, event logging, alerting and reporting features. Log messages can be sent to an external syslog server, and alert messages can be delivered to an e-mail address or a pager.

For SMBs with no IT staff, solution providers will probably want to receive these alerts directly.

A big mistake many wireless integrators make when they are setting up a wireless solution for a customer is not conducting a site survey to determine parameters before installation. Randomly placing access points in a wireless environment without performing a site survey can cause problems. A site survey can head off any potential issues and also can provide integrators

with service revenue. For example, if dealing with a high-RF environment, the integrator can provide insight and make the right adjustments prior to installation. Netgear provides tools through its Powershift Partner Program to help solution providers make the correct installation decisions.

Netgear's Powershift reseller program offers a 2 percent back-end rebate for selling $15,000 of product per quarter, or a 5 percent front-end rebate for selling $75,000 per quarter.

Netgear partners also have access to MDF, end-user shows, seminars and training. The company offers other collateral in the form of marketing campaigns and advertising. A gated Web site helps partners interface with the company and offers additional information on the product lines, along with express support and channel partner-specific information. All partners receive a 5 percent front-end government/education discount, which helps to bring margins to more than 20 percent.

The only downside to Netgear's channel program is that most of the company's products also are available via retail or big box stores, which can create excessive competition and pricing pressures.