January 26, 2010, 3:57 PM — Netgear's new security appliance takes on small-to-midsize business stalwarts such as Fortinet and Barracuda by including antispam, antimalware, and Web content filtering in a single unit that offers easy deployment and budget-preserving pricing.
We tested the STM600, the high-end appliance Netgear started shipping in November, and found that it does an adequate job of blocking what you don't want, while making a minimal intrusion into your network.
The STM600 combines two main functions in a single appliance. First is e-mail protections, including antispam and anti-malware, as well as some content filtering. Second is Web and FTP client protections, including antimalware and content filtering.
The STM600 has an easy-to-use Web-based interface, and a separate out-of-band management port, which is a nice feature. In general, most network managers will be able to configure the STM600 in just a few minutes.
The e-mail protection features work on SMTP, POP3 and IMAP4 protocols. You identify what ports you're running these three protocols on, and then define a fairly simple policy on how to handle traffic.
Web protection is slightly more sophisticated. You start with the same configuration: define what ports you run HTTP, Secure-HTTP and FTP on, then say which policies will apply. The STM600 supports malware scanning, content filtering (such as blocking .EXE files or online shopping sites), URL filtering with your own block/allow lists of URLs and sites, application filtering for a list of about 18 common applications, such as BitTorrent, GoToMyPC, and Yahoo Messenger, plus man-in-the-middle HTTPS scanning.
The STM600 also allows HTTP users to authenticate themselves using a Web page, and you can use this authentication to apply exceptions to your basic policy.
Inline ins and outs
The STM600 acts as a "bump in the wire," meaning that it sits transparently in your network, doing its job, without any additional configuration of your Web clients, mail servers or DNS. That's quite a departure from other products in this space, which usually act as separate e-mail servers or Web proxies.
The advantage is that you don't have to touch anything. But there are also disadvantages. The most obvious is that now the STM600 is sitting "inline" in your network, controlling all traffic. If the STM600 locks up or otherwise starts misbehaving, everything can slow down or be cut off entirely.