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Panda GateDefender Performa SB review

Verdict

A high-quality web and messaging security solution with top anti-spam performance, but it's dear

Review Date: 31 Dec 2010

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: £2,200 (£2,585 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

Panda's GateDefender Performa family of appliances is aimed at businesses that want web and messaging content management, but don't want to replace their firewall or IPS solution. The entry-level Performa SB delivers anti-spam, anti-malware, web filtering and IM, P2P and VoIP controls.

It benefits from a substantial update that brings in plenty of new features. First is HTTPS scanning, which was absent in previous versions but is now provided as standard. The web interface has also been spruced up, and scanning performance gets a boost, too; malware detection has been moved into the cloud but teamed up with a local cache of previously detected malware.

This desktop box has two Gigabit ports fitted with a hardware bypass switch, so if it goes belly-up you won't lose internet access. Deployment is swift: it functions as a transparent gateway, and we popped it in between our LAN and WAN without any problems.

The web interface provides a slick status screen with graphs for each of the five security services. Graphs are also provided for traffic and appliance performance, and pointing at any graph title changes its display to blocks showing which protocols it's enabled for.

Panda's protection profiles require you to create network definitions for IP addresses, LDAP servers, users and domains. These contain custom settings for each security module and are applied to definitions allowing a wide range of AUPs to be applied to different users, groups and systems.

Panda GateDefender Performa SB

Previously, you could only apply the IM, P2P and VoIP module globally, but this can now be customised within each profile. However, you can still only block or allow access to a selection of apps. Cyberoam's A-Listed CR15wi (see p30) can control IM logins, text chats, file transfer and webcam sharing.

Cloudmark's hosted anti-spam service delivered a near-clean sheet in our live tests. We left the appliance filtering live email for over a week and not a single spam message slipped past it. We also saw only three false-positives.

Panda has dropped Cobion in favour of Commtouch for web filtering. This hosted service offers 65 URL categories to block or allow. HTTP and HTTPS traffic can be checked and schedules used to determine when policies are active.

It performed well: with games and gambling blocked, our clients couldn't access any sites under these categories. Social networking was also dealt with effectively: by blocking a single category, access to all the major time-wasting sites, including Facebook and Twitter, was stopped.

Antivirus scanning can be applied to a range of protocols, and as the appliance can scan outbound mail, it will delete messages it thinks have been generated by internal viral activity. The appliance also has an internal hard disk so can quarantine suspect messages that it can't disinfect.

If you're fond of your firewall and don't want a full UTM appliance, then Panda's Performa SB is worth considering. It's a lot more expensive than Cyberoam's small-business appliances, but is very easy to deploy and offers excellent anti-spam and web-filtering performance.

Author: Dave Mitchell

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