ZYXEL ISN’T THE BIGGEST NETWORKING SUPPLIER supporting the channel, but the Anaheim, Calif-based company has built an impressive catalog of products for everyone from major service providers to home users in markets ranging from wired and wireless routers and switches to IP cameras and even personal cloud storage. Both the Zyxel USG40 Unified Security Gateway and the GS1920-24HP Smart Managed Switch, however, are meant squarely for small to medium-size businesses.
Installing the USG40 (opening image, above) is simple. Plug it into your modem, connect a client PC, and you’ll get internet access as soon as the machine boots. No opening firewall holes or fumbling with application setup.
You use a browser to configure the device. Clicking the Easy Setup icon will supposedly kick that process off, but the only way we could get the system registered was to navigate to MyZyxel.com from another PC and take care of it there. Fortunately, our USG40 saw the registration quickly.
The USG40 comes out of the box as a firewall. Adding optional modules for anti-virus, anti-spam, intrusion detection and prevention, application patrol, and content filtering turns it into a complete unified threat management platform, however. Standard licensing on those modules lasts 13 months, or 396 days versus 365.
Setting up the security module through the Easy Mode (pictured, below) interface was a snap. The base content filter settings weren’t the most granular we’ve seen, but many more choices are available through the advanced screens. Those include the usual “Adult” and “Tasteless” settings for filtering out pornography and other offensive content, but also a “Job Search” setting for blocking sites like Indeed.com and Monster.com. Want to block Netflix and BitTorrent? Easily doable. When it’s time to re-up the security options, the complete bundle’s price is $230 (but may change over time).
The Easy Mode wizards for VPNs, port forwarding, and Wi-Fi all do a similarly good job of stepping new admins through setup. If things get sticky, you’ll be happy to see the Expert Mode interface is about as friendly as an Easy Mode console was 10 years ago. It includes an active image of the USG40 across the top of the screen, so you can check the lights and cables without going to whichever closet holds the unit. Statistics for the various security filters are easy to enable and monitor.
While the USG40 lacks the built-in Wi-Fi of the USG40W, all is not wirelessly lost. The system can support a primary network and guest network in collaboration with several different kinds of compatible Zyxel access points.
Branch office VPN connection options include load balancing and high availability settings. Remote clients gain secure access with SSL, IPSec, and L2TP over IPSec VPN. Use Amazon cloud apps? Turn on the Amazon VPC VPN.
Once configured, the USG40 disappears as far as users are concerned, until they get a customizable error message from a blocked website. Otherwise, things just roll along as they should. The fanless USG40 has the ease of use to satisfy small companies plus the power and flexibility to support medium-size ones.