CHANNEL PROS have many questions as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines promises a light at the end of the global pandemic tunnel. One of the first and most important is, “What will the new normal look like?” Everyone has a different answer, some more optimistic than others, but it distills down to a simple response: “It’s complex.”
Businesses of all sizes have found ways to keep people working during the crisis, which includes shifting as many employees as possible, sometimes entire operations, to remote work-from-home scenarios. That has triggered or accelerated the move of on-premises infrastructure to the cloud. It has also introduced massive security challenges to protect users as they work from insecure networks and devices. Pre-pandemic, many business owners never entertained the idea of remote workers. Now they face a reality that flexibility could very well spell survival in the future, and may be demanded by those same employees who have grown accustomed to working from home.
SMBs face the challenge of scaling their networks to support flexibility while keeping users secure. In all likelihood, their existing firewalls aren’t up to the task. Zyxel Networks hopes its USG FLEX network security appliances will win the day with higher performance, flexible licensing, and top-rate security.
The USG FLEX is a series of unified threat management (UTM) gateways, henceforth referred to as “firewalls.” Zyxel debuted the series earlier this summer with the FLEX 100, FLEX 200, and FLEX 500 models, and has recently added a wireless variant of the FLEX 100 and a higher-end FLEX 700. As you go up the chain, the feature set remains consistent (with the exception of AP management in the 200-plus models and the wireless capabilities of the 100W), but adds LAN/WAN ports, throughput, and concurrent VPN connections. This review focuses on the entry-level USG FLEX 100.
On the Outside
The first thing you’ll notice about the FLEX 100 is that it’s compact (8.50 x 5.80 x 1.30 inches), but with a solid feel and weight that imply quality. The exterior is silver metallic nearly all the way around, with red accents on the left and right sides of the front. There are ample cutouts for ventilation along the top and sides, which is important given this model is passively cooled.
The front face sports status indicators for the various ports, a reset button, and a USB 3.0 port for the addition of external storage or a 3G/4G modem. The business side is on the back, where you’ll find four LAN/DMZ ports, WAN port, SFP port, RJ-45 console port (it does include a serial adapter in the box), power connector, and power button (pictured right).
The FLEX 100 isn’t rack-mountable (other than the tray) given the size, but it is wall-mountable via the holes on the bottom, and also includes rubber feet in the box for placing it on a shelf or desk.