Gateway Server and Firewall Options

If you are running a business (or want to protect your home). One of the most important things to do is to secure your network. There are a number of very good and open source (free or low cost) Linux/BSD distributions that can protect your network. These open source servers do require some computer skill to administer. The beauty of it is that you can usually get started for free.

Many of these open source packages have commercial add-ons that you can use to enhance the network security. These paid add-ons are usually enhanced versions of the free/open source elements of the servers. (FYI: Companies in the open source field make their money by providing paid support contracts for the free products)

Regardless of the solution you choose, you will want a local or remote computer support person who can effectively leverage the available solutions in your environment. With the open source solutions available today, you can secure your network with little or no recurring cost. This is true with a home or business. Although, as a business network there are probably some add-ons such as company support and commercial anti-virus that you may want to consider adding to the system. The cost of these add-ons if very reasonable though and will help support your open source solutions so they stay around.

I will quickly run through a few of the options in this field, but first, I will define a few terms for the newbies in the group:

Linux of GNU/Linux is an open source user interface sitting on top of the Linux kernal. Linux has grown to be every bit as user friendly as Windows or Mac. ( I believe it is actually better than them both today.)

BSD- is another open source operating system. It is especially known for having very tight security.

Server- A server is basically a central computer responsible for handling network wide functions in an organization or organization sub-group. (or a home now days)

Firewall- Is an appliance device or an specialized server that is controlling traffic going in and out of the network to the internet as a whole.

GUI- Graphic User Interface. This is all the pretty windows you drag around and click now days. It is what is commonly thought of as an operating system by the average person today. Think what you see when you open a Windows XP desktop.

Untangle Firewall-

Untangle is an open source firewall/gateway solution that has paid add-on’s and support. It is the product that I personally use to protect my business network. It is known for having a very pretty user interface–very “Windows-esque”. Their Graphic User Interface (GUI) resembles a rack of servers like you would see in a server room. ( When I look at the graphic rack, I think about the thousands of dollars I would be spending on a rack of hardware for the same purpose.) Their package of solutions for securing (and accelerating) your network spans almost anything that you can think of needing. It works great for intrusion detection, web filtering, captive portal, virus blocking, and handling DHCP/DNS functions. Each of these individual pieces is configurable through an convienient GUI. All in one excellent easy to use platform.

PFsense-

PFsense is based on BSD. BSD is well known for its security as an operating system. This makes BSD a great platform for a firewall/ gateway solution. PFsense has long had the reputation for being a gateway for the super techy user. PFsense actually does have a very useable GUI. There are not as many easy to use features as untangle, so it would require a more skilled user to administer. There is paid support offered. It is pricey however, starting at $600 dollars for 5 hours.

ClearOS-

ClearOS is an open source distribution that focuses on being an all around server for your network. ClearOS doesn’t just handle the security aspects for your network, but it is designed to handle the duties of file server, web server, and mail server. This package has a network of providers trained in implementing there solution. There is also direct support from the company. This distribution is a great contender to replace a Windows Small Business Server.

Amahi-

Amahi is a Linux server based on Fedora. (Fedora is the open test bed for Red Hat Linux) This server is open source. They have done a great job of pulling together a lot of the features that a small office would need in a server. There product manages files, calendars, backups, disk pooling, wiki’s, database management, and disk monitoring. They also include DHCP, DNS, and VPN capabilities. These later capabilities are probably fine for home user, but for the high security environment I would stick with a firewall speciality distribution.

Amahi is also able to easily plug-in additional functionality. Although, not tons of Apps there is a nice assortment. These are nice one click install of additional functions. Of course being Linux and specifically Fedora based you can add further functionality through RPM packages.

This has been a few ideas to get you started in an affordable and secure fashion. I love open source!

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