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Review Of Sonicwall Tz170 Firewall/router

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Overall: B- If you can stand the harassment.Hardware: A+ The hardware has performed very well, little to no problems.Software: A- Only one glitch found.Licensing: C-This has caused me some problems. My license is for 10 concurrent connections. I had a LAN party in February which had 15 people, needless to say I had some problems.Harassment: F-If you don’t renew the software prepare to be bombarded with email, snail mail, and phone calls.This journey starts with the need for a stronger and more robust firewall for my home. For many years I used a Linksys home firewall/router that you can buy at any name brand electronic store (I got this one at Best Buy for around $100). At first I had no problems but as my usage increased, I started to have dropped packets and some quite strange behavior. As it turns out, one of the programs that I was developing required a rather large number of HTTP requests to be left open for a reply. As this is a distributed application, I had five computers running it which made the open request buffer too large for my router to handle. After extensive research I found that the Linksys only supported 256 concurrent connections. A quick back of the napkin calculation reveled that my program busted the limit almost immediately. Time to look for a new router/firewall.From the onset I was looking for a small to medium business firewall. The usual suspects were mostly ruled out (Linksys and D-Link). This leaves the more traditional business brands such as Cisco, ZyXEL, and SonicWall. A friend of mine recommended SonicWall (https://www.sonicwall.com/) so I started my research in that direction. The bottom of the SonicWall market starts with the TZ 150. Although much pricier than many of the consumer level products, it still lacked some of the features that I wanted. The next best thing is the TZ 170. There are two versions of the 170, wired and wireless. Since I want to keep a secure perimeter to my network and since I have already invested time, money, sweet, and some quite literal blood into running Cat 5 in my house, I decided to ditch wireless and go with the wired solution. My purchase was from NewEgg.com (http://www.newegg.com/) and was around $300. I made my purchase in September of 2006 (which is about six months prior to this review).The firewall arrived fully functional and without defects. Despite the warning on the NewEgg reviews, I found the setup to be very simple and I did not have any problems understanding any of the interface options. It did take me a minute to figure out that two different pages were needed to setup a firewall rule. As expected all incoming requests are denied by default. All I had to do was add a few rules to allow the basics such as FTP and other servers to run. The interface also included free trials of SonicWall’s premium services such as virus protection, mail filtering, and content filtering. Being a home user I have little use for these so I decided not to activate any of the premium features. (As a side note, I actually found the content filtering to be offending. Although I want protection, the last thing I want is to be limited to information based on someone else’s opinion of what is morally right or wrong).It is now six months down the road and I feel that I have enough information for an informed review. The main points are found at the top of this article. The hardware has performed very well. I crashed the firewall once but that was fixed very quickly with a power cycle. During the first few weeks I did find a bug in the software. It was related to defining a service and then trying to remove that service. I never did find a solution but it was not major so I just learned to live with it.The next section starts with the cons of the TZ 170. I have quickly found that the commercial firewall business is much like a cell phone company. The hardware is somewhat subsidized in order to sell their services. Just like Verizon (or any other) you can buy a $500 cell phone for $50 as long as you sign up for a 23 year contract. SonicWall is not as strict as to enforce an extended contract but they do give added “incentives” to buy their services. My firewall has a license for 10 computers to connect to the Internet. If this is exceeded then the machines above this limit are simply denied access to the Internet. I have only had one problem with this and it was during a LAN party that I hosted. I had around 15 people over and I soon found that the limit could not be stretched. I had to spend half the night not enjoying my game but shuffling machines in and out of the restricted list. The initial license agreement also includes access to technical support. Apparently if you do not pony up an additional $150 or so dollars a year you loose out on technical support. Needless to say, my support option has lapsed.The last complaint is the harassment. I have found out that if you do let your “essential software” lapse, then you will get no less than 10 emails, 3 letters in the mail, and 2 phone calls (no this is not exaggerated). I am a home user and not a business and quite frankly I can not afford the extra $500 or so extra a year that SonicWall wants from me. I just hope they give up eventually.The bottom line is this. I would buy another SonicWall TZ170. The hardware is fantastic and I am the personality type that can ignore the propaganda to renew my license. Without a renewed technical support license, I don’t think it will be the end of the world. If one the other had you have to have all the upgrades and keep constant support, I would not buy from SonicWall.

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