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Cisco Small Business Pro SA 520 review


A very good range of security features including hosted anti-spam services but the SA 520 is tricky to manage and comparatively expensive.

Review Date: 5 Jul 2010

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: £242 (£284 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

4 stars out of 6

Cisco’s latest Small Business Pro appliances aim to deliver a complete gateway security solution but with a twist. These appliances provide a complete range of security measures but Cisco has teamed up with Trend Micro to offer its optional ProtectLink endpoint protection, web filtering and anti-spam services.

The anti-spam component is unusual as this is a hosted service. The majority of solutions at this price point, such as the A-Listed Netgear ProSecure UTM5, function as transparent gateways and are much easier to deploy.

With the SA 520 you need to fiddle around with your MX record so all your email is rerouted to Trend’s InterScan hosting servers first where it’s filtered, cleaned up and then passed on to your internal mail server.

Basic features of the SA 520 include a standard SPI firewall and support for IPsec and SSL VPNs. IPS includes IM and P2P app controls but this is another optional extra which requires a separate license.

URL filtering and anti-spam come under the ProtectLink Gateway component and for the former you have a total of 83 categories. You can pick and choose which ones you want to block and use time periods to specify business and leisure hours.

Cisco Small Business Pro SA 520

Filtering performance wasn’t perfect as with the games and gambling categories blocked we got through to ten of the fifty online bingo sites visited. Social networkers will have a tougher time as with this category selected we were unable to get at nuisance sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

For IPS you have eleven policies for detecting and blocking commons attacks. IM and P2P app controls are basic as you have only four protocols for each type and can block or just log their usage.

The web page for anti-spam redirects you to the InterScan site where you log in to access the main portal. For each mail domain you can have one policy which contains multiple rules for managing spam, phishing and infected emails.

The portal provides some classy reporting tools plus mail traffic analysis and one feature you get that transparent gateways can’t offer is message quarantining. The InterScan servers handle this function and can send an email digest to users that have quarantined mail. You can also allow them to log in, view their own spam and delete or release selected messages.

Trend’s Worry-Free Business Security Hosted service handles desktop endpoint protection. Installation is swift as you email each user with a web link which downloads and installs an agent to their system. This provides local virus protection and you can use the portal to check on systems and run manual and scheduled scans.

Ticking a check box at the appliance applies a single policy which will block web access to any desktop without the agent. Endpoint protection adds an extra layer of security but this component does have a lot of unnecessary features as you also get a local firewall with IDS, web reputation filtering and options to scan inbound mail.

The SA 520 is a powerful security solution but it’s not so easy to deploy and configure. Furthermore, there are a lot of optional features and once you’ve added the cost of licensing them all it starts getting pricey making Netgear’s ProSecure UTM appliances less expensive and more easily managed alternatives.

Author: Dave Mitchell

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