Netgear's FVS336G Shows There's Still Some Life Left in Selling Firewalls

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


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Firewalls for the most part are now called security appliances, and for small businesses those security appliances have become somewhat a commodity item. Netgear is looking to revoke the commodity status from the SMB security appliance market with the FVS336G.

Network security for a small business can be a funny thing. After all, small businesses need the same level of protection that is found in an enterprise, yet small businesses don’t have an enterprise budget, which creates a conundrum for VARs looking to secure those small-business customers.

Netgear’s vision is to give small businesses good security products at an affordable price, and the ProSafe FVS336G SMB SSL VPN/Firewall is an excellent example of that vision.

Unlike most security appliance manufacturers, Netgear delineates the difference between a small business and an enterprise branch office. Most of the small-business security products on the market today blur that line–because most vendors feel there is little difference between the security needs of a small business and a branch office.

Netgear designed the FVS336G from the outset as a small-business solution. The company eliminated branch office-style features, such as enterprise manageability, to keep costs down and make the unit simpler to deploy and use. Even with the paring down of management options, the FVS336G proves to be quite robust. Integrators will find the unit offers everything needed at the gateway for protecting most small businesses.

The FVS336G uses an SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection) firewall to keep the bad stuff out of the network and offers SSL VPN support (allowing remote workers to securely connect into the network), two Gigabit WAN ports (can be set up for failover or traffic bonding), four Gigabit LAN ports, support for 25 IPSec connections and support for 10 concurrent SSL tunnels.


The FVS336G is housed in a blue metal case, which features an internal power supply (no power brick needed), a power switch and plenty of status LEDs. It measures a compact 10 inches wide, 7 inches deep and 1.5 inches high. Installation of the unit is straightforward, and even those with limited networking experience should have no trouble running the configuration wizard.


A basic setup takes only a few minutes, but the unit’s real power comes from the integrated VPN, which can be configured to use IPSec or SSL connections. Netgear only includes a single license for the IPSec VPN, but that should be no big deal as that SSL is probably the way most will want to go.

Setting up an IPSec VPN on the unit can be a tedious and laborious process (pretty much the same as with any VPN product), but Netgear does provide excellent documentation and context-sensitive help to ease the process somewhat. SSL connectivity is a different story. A configuration wizard can be used to quickly set up SSL support, define accounts and even guide remote users through a connection.

One really nifty feature offered by the FVS336G is a split tunnel mode for SSL connections. That option allows a remote client full access to the LAN behind the FVS336G, yet leaves Web surfing to the end user's local connection. Split tunneling works by issuing an IP address outside of the FVS336G’s LAN subnet, which is then rerouted into the LAN subnet for communications requests for devices behind the firewall. All other traffic is routed back to the remote user's PC and then out to the Internet.

Of course, integrators will find all of the expected functions included on the FVS336G, such as port forwarding, dynamic DNS, user accounts, user groups, policy definitions and so on. The administrative menus prove to be easy to navigate and understand, while context-sensitive help aids in polishing away any rough edges.

Powered by a 300MHz processor, the unit offers adequate performance. Response and throughput on a small network proved to be snappy, and the integrated Ethernet switch offered plenty of throughput for local systems and applications. Although the WAN ports support Gigabit connectivity, it is doubtful that the unit could leverage that level of bandwidth. That said, it is highly unlikely any small business will have Gigabit broadband connectivity.

The FVS336G is an excellent value at a street price of around $300. For that price buyers will get a commercial quality unit that is loaded with the necessary features to bring security and remote connectivity to most any small business.

Solution providers will find Netgear’s channel program more than adequate and will have access to all of the expected bells and whistles, such as training, support and rebates. Solution providers will also have the potential to earn revenue by implementing the unit’s VPN and remote access capabilities and can use the FVS336G as a foot in the door to sell other security solutions—such as content filtering, anti-virus and anti-spam products.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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