Fortinet packs enterprise security into a small business box

Fortinet Inc. is targeting remote workers, branch offices and small businesses with two multi-threat devices that provide enterprise-grade network protection at smaller price points.

Designed for wired networks, the FortiGate-30B (US$295) includes three internal security ports and provides dedicated VPN access, firewall, intrusion prevention, Web content filtering, antivirus, data leakage protection and antispyware.

The FortiWifi-30B (US$395) provides the same levels of protection and includes a built-in 802.11 b/g wireless access point, Wide Area Network (WAN) port and four integrated switch ports for wireless networks.

Both devices can be bundled with a one-year FortiGuard Subscription Service for an additional US$100.

The devices remove cost and configuration constraints faced with installing multiple security devices by including the same level of protection in a single, stand-alone unit, according to the company.

“We are very excited about the fact that we’re taking what has been traditionally a very sophisticated security model for enterprise customers in a mid-range and high-end place and giving it to what we consider a lower stream customer base,” said Anthony James, vice-president of products at Fortinet.

There’s no compromise on the lower-tier models, he added. “They’ll get all that security functionality, they’ll get the experience that a high-end enterprise would and they’ll get the feature set.”

Fortinet ensures the highest level of security because all the hardware is built off the same software, James explained. “When we built software, we don’t discriminate between which security features get enabled in which versions of hardware … you get the security features on this platform that you would have got with a higher-end series,” he said.


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James noted a couple minor differences, such as networking functionality and the ability to look inside encrypted content. “That requires a special hardware piece that is not inside this platform. The feature is there, but you can’t get the advantage of using it because it’s not on that particular box,” he said.

Rather than limit the number of users on a network, there is a cap on the amount of data that can pass through each device. “This box can be expected to deliver 100 mbps of firewall processing, so however many users you can fit behind that, depending on their traffic patterns, that’s how scalable it will be,” he said.

According to James, the devices provide more scalability than what most other vendors would offer at this price point. “A lot of competitors give you a limit of five or ten users. We could go far beyond that.”

Fortinet is a leading provider of unified threat management solutions, with fast and capable products that have historically targeted the enterprise, said James Quin, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group Inc. “Branching out like this shows an interest in extending a high level of protection to even the smallest businesses,” he said.

Quin anticipates small businesses and individual employees would find the most value in the devices. “Any enterprise use would be to issue devices to telecommuters (and) road warriors to ensure protection while they are out of the office,” he said.

The ability to equip employees with a highly portable device that can extend enterprise-grade gateway protection to remote users is something enterprises should care about, said Quin. “Making sure that far-flung end-points maintain a high level of protection is a critical factor for all businesses these days,” he said.

But Fortinet may face a challenge in penetrating the small business market, according to Quin. “People who know about security know about Fortinet. Those that don’t know about security don’t know about Fortinet (but they do know about McAfee, Symantec, et al.),” he said.

“As a result, I expect the initial take-up to be by larger businesses equipping tiny remote locations rather than tiny businesses equipping themselves,” said Quin.

Security appliance vendors Juniper Networks Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. are also announcing products that target the lower end of the market, according to David Senf, director of Research, Canadian Security and Infrastructure Software at IDC Canada.

Senf predicts uptake in small branch offices under the direction of corporate parents. Activity is also more likely in the upper mid-market where businesses are cost-constrained and understand the demand for security products, he said.

But SOHOs will remain a hard sell, according to Senf, because they don’t realize they need this level of security.

“You’ll need a bunch of public service announcements for the small business segment before you’re going to get mass adoption of security technologies. There is a general lack of understanding in smaller companies about the breadth of security challenges they really face,” he said.

Small businesses in Canada often report the highest satisfaction level with security software, hardware, services, capabilities, etc. relative to mid-market and enterprise users, Senf pointed out.

“Large organizations have the least amount of satisfaction … They get it. They know there’s a lot of threats and there’s a wide variety of threats, whereas in the small market, their understanding of security threats is lower,” he said.

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