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Celestix MSA 1500i review

Verdict

Delivers Microsoft's TMG 2010 to SMBs in a good-value security package that's ready to go out of the box

Review Date: 1 Dec 2010

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: £1,500 (£1,763 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

The MSA 1500i from Celestix differs from Linux-based security appliances since it comes preloaded with Microsoft's Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) 2010 software (our thanks to Wick Hill for supplying the review unit). It claims to deliver enterprise-level UTM features to SMBs with up to 200 users.

TMG 2010 takes over from ISA Server 2006, and at its foundation provides inbound and outbound security gateway services with IPsec VPNs, forward and reverse web proxies and web caching. New features include an SPI firewall, HTTPS traffic inspection and Microsoft's Network Inspection System (NIS), which looks for exploits in Microsoft products.

The rest are optional and comprise email protection, antivirus scanning and URL filtering. The latter two are activated by a Web Protection Service subscription; prices will depend on your existing Microsoft support agreements.

The 1500i runs Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard 64-bit with TMG 2010 Workgroup Edition. The only difference between this and the Branch Edition offered with larger MSA appliances is that it doesn't support load balancing.

Celestix's Comet web interface is designed for remotely managing its MSA appliances. It provides access to the TMG quick-start wizard, where you set up the network ports and choose from four operational templates.

We deployed the 1500i as an edge firewall and quickly integrated it into our AD domain. The TMG client is useful, as it offers HTTPS inspection notifications, auto-discovers the appliance, and offers a one-click web proxy setup.

Celestix MSA 1500i

TMG firewall policies comprise source and destination networks or hosts. They can also allow or deny actions, protocols and specific AD users and groups. Wizards are provided for securely publishing LAN resources such as Exchange web access, SharePoint sites and web servers.

Policies can include web-filtering rules with categories to be blocked or allowed. Microsoft provides over 70 URL categories, all of which were effective.

The optional Forefront Protection for Exchange provides email protection and antispam measures, and doesn't support other third-party email servers. It snaps neatly into the TMG console and provides wizards for declaring your Exchange servers and mail domains. It uses a spam confidence level scoring system for detecting spam and provides three actions where you can delete, reject or quarantine messages.

Both web content and emails are subjected to a barrage of virus scans, as TMG offers up to five engines from Kaspersky, Authentium, Norman, VirusBuster and Microsoft. File-attachment filters can be applied to inbound and outbound traffic, and message bodies can be scanned for specific keywords and phrases.

Reporting is extremely detailed, with options to view details on user activity, web traffic, cache usage and much more. These can be scheduled to run regularly, although it was annoying to find that reports can't be generated for the current day's activity until the following day.

With TMG 2010 in the driving seat, the MSA 1500i offers an impressive range of security measures and is a cinch to integrate into AD domains. The optional security features will push up the price, but for SMBs that want Microsoft on their security appliance this is the one to go for.

Author: Dave Mitchell

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