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The word "firewall" conjures up all
sorts of images, and therein lies the problem. That word has become a catchall
for an abundance of security products, both software- and hardware-based, which
can share very little in common. While the industry continues to struggle with
the question of what exactly a firewall is, networking vendor Zyxel
Communications has decided to move beyond the term firewall and classify its
latest device, the Zywall USG100, as a Unified
Threat Management appliance.

Simply put, the USG100
is much more than a firewall; it is an appliance that protects networks from a
variety of security threats, from malware to intrusions to spam. What’s more,
the USG100 offers VPN support—SSL
(Secure Sockets Layer) and IP Security—as well as bandwidth management and a
slew of other features.

At first glance, the USG100’s
feature set seems impressive, especially at an MSRP of just $649, but one has
to realize that the UTM market is crowded at best, oversaturated at worst and
dominated by industry giants such as Symantec, Sonicwall and Fortinet. All of
those vendors have products that are pretty close in features to Zyxel’s USG100,
making Zyxel’s leap into the market a challenging one.

Fortunately, Zyxel has a few elements on its side
when it comes to entering a challenging market. First off, the company has a
strong channel commitment and is devoted to partners. Secondly, the USG100
is offered at a price that is several hundred dollars lower than its
competitors. Thirdly, Zyxel has gone to great lengths to incorporate features
that attempt to best the competition in several areas, ranging from speed to
capacity to ease of use.