Protecting a network from intruders, viruses, harmful websites and other bad things can take a whole suite of software that has to be loaded up on each computer. Not only can this be expensive, but each computer suffers from having all that software running in the background. A better way to handle this would be to dedicate a single machine to the task and make it a full time Gateway. However, not everyone can afford a dedicated machine. That is why Untangle came out with Untangle for Windows, which utilizes its re-router technology.
- Provide network gateway protection without buying new hardware
- Protect the entire network from just 1 PC (Unlike Norton or McAfee)
- Get started in minutes… No network reconfiguration, re-cabling or extra NICs to install
- Leverage the best open source networking apps on the familiar Windows platform
The Untangle software has several features that set it apart from other Gateway software programs. The first and foremost is that it is open source and free.
Second, is that within Untangle there are 14 integrated apps that perform various functions like spam, spyware, and virus blocking.
Third, is that it can run in the background on just about any Windows XP machine. This fact is also my biggest complaint, it only runs on Windows XP. As of this writing, Untangle for Windows is not compatible with Windows Vista. This is a problem because XP is getting more difficult to get, and because I have fairly new computers, all my computers at home are running Vista. I actually had to dual boot one of my computers with XP just to test the software.
Fourth, is that installing and running the software does not require any changes in the networks cabling or in the machines settings. For me this is huge because I have all my routers and switches in a small box that is mounted to my wall. That box does not have room for a server, so setting one up would be difficult. If Untangle can get this same feature to work with their stand alone server then it would make that one even better.
Besides the fact that this runs on Windows, the software is exactly like the stand alone Untangle server. Because of this I am not going to go into the design of the software. If you want to know all about the software then you can read the review.
Installing Untangle for Windows is no different than installing any other Windows program. After running through the normal setup Untangle starts up. It can take up to 30 minutes for the first start because there is a lot of configuring that has to take place. Fortunately, this only has to be done once and every other time it starts it is a lot faster. However, I made things difficult for myself by trying to install the software on a Vista machine. I did this to see if I could get it to work, and because I didn’t want to install XP on any of my computers. The install process went smoothly. I didn’t get any errors about not being compatible or that it would not work. The problems started when I actually tried to run it. The software would attempt to start, but never reached a state that allowed me to use it. I even tried running it in Windows XP compatibility mode, but that did not help. I ended up having to dual boot one of my machines with XP so I could test this.
As I mentioned above, one of the best things about Untangle for Windows is that it does not require a single change in the network or any of the machines on the network. According to the Untangle website “Re-Router Technology leverages virtualization and layer 2 protocols to dynamically reconfigure the network so that all in/outbound traffic flows through the Untangle ‘server’ before reaching its intended destination. The physical network gateway thinks the Untangle ‘server’ is each of the desktops and the desktops think it’s the gateway.” To me this is amazing and is what makes this such a great product. I did not have a single problem getting it installed or running, “it just works.”
Testing the software by going to blocked websites and downloading test virus files resulted in the same actions as I got with the Untangle server. This is both good and bad. Good because it does a great job of protecting a network from most threats, and bad because I found a few flaws when I wrote my last review. No matter which machine on my network I tried, I got the same blocks and protections. Again this is amazing to me because I did not make a single change to any of those machines.
Because this is most likely going to be loaded on a desktop that is also being used for other things, it is important to understand how it performs and what the resource usage is. As I mentioned above I loaded up a new copy of Windows XP just for this test. As you can see, Windows XP only uses about 172MB of ram with a clean install. After installing Untangle for Windows, the RAM usage went up to about 378MB and the CPU usage did not seem affected. I consider this to be acceptable. I have 2GB of RAM on this computer, and having about 200MB used by Untangle is ok.
I did not notice any speed difference with surfing the internet. I even went out to a speed test site and ran 10 tests with, and 10 tests without, the Untangle software running. I didn’t see any major difference in download or upload speeds. The one thing that I did see a speed difference with was downloading my email. Because I had the email scanner running it took a bit longer for the emails to be scanned and downloaded. Part of the reason it took so long was because I was running a virus scanner on my computer that also scans emails. Disabling this would go a long way to speed up the downloading of emails.
Earlier I mentioned that I did not like the fact that Untangle for Windows would only run on XP. Fortunately, even though it only runs on XP, it is able to protect any and all operating systems that are using the network it is loaded on, even my Vista machines were protected.
Just like with the other review, Untangle provides a website that is full of great resources. They also have great call in support; however, it is not free. I recommend that if you need support you first try to find the answer in the FAQs, forum, or on the internet in general before you call support and have to pay for it.
I am really impressed with the software. It works very well at protecting a network from most threats. If you have a network that you want to protect, and you cannot setup a dedicated gateway, then this is the way to go. I am so impressed that I really want to give Untangle another Editors Choice award; however, I am going to hold off until they get it working with the more modern Windows Vista Operating system. If it wasn’t for this huge problem I would be using it on my network right now. For now I am presenting Untangle for Windows with the Gold award.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|