by RSS Chris Dawson  |  Nov 18, 2014  |  Filed in: Industry Trends

Ok, it’s not as sexy as unboxing the latest iDevice, but I’m pretty excited about the new Fortinet equipment that just arrived today.

Unboxing blogs and videos are rarely anything to get excited about. A reviewer showing off a new toy that a manufacturer sends out to generate some buzz or the latest bit of kit that us geeks just can’t refrain from sharing as soon as that big white truck arrives at our door isn't anything new. My wife calls them nerdy stripteases. I can’t say she’s wrong, but here I go with what may be the nerdiest unboxing ever. But first a bit of background.

It wasn’t a white truck that dropped off my new gear today, it was "brown". But I still tracked my package from Sunnyvale, California, with the same obsessiveness usually reserved for a new iDevice flying in from China. Why the excitement? Because one of the first things I asked for when I started working with Fortinet was a review unit. The same underlying OS powers all of our FortiGate products, so it didn’t need to be a giant carrier-class unit to get up close and personal with the features and software. In fact, one of the reasons I got involved with Fortinet is that they have little desktop units suitable for a small office or retail store, big rack-mount units that power ISPs, major financial firms, giant telecom carriers, and everything in between. If the late, great Mr. Rogers worked at Fortinet, he probably would have asked, “Can you say scalability? Great! I knew you could!”

I recently published a book explaining how people could build their own firewalls and gateway devices using free software from another security company based down the road from Fortinet (shhhh...don’t tell my boss) and have set up a wide variety of firewalls for schools and small businesses. Some have been free, some have been expensive. There have been good ones and bad ones and their effectiveness wasn’t always directly proportional to their cost. In some cases I had better luck with firewalls I built for free from donated desktop computers, a few network cards, and free software than I did with some of the most expensive security appliances I managed.

So where do Fortinet devices fall in this spectrum? Fortinet’s reputation for performance and security are well-known and their prices are really competitive, but if I approach them from the perspective of the average SMB... can their daily usability, ease of setup, and real world value match their well-documented performance? How well do these considerations translate to schools, healthcare practices, and other organizations with serious security needs but rarely the human resources to address these needs easily? After all, when was the last time you encountered a high school with a CSO? Or a local IT department, for that matter?

To that end, I now have a FortiGate 90D PoE and a FortiAP-221C sitting in my office. The FortiGate is an entry-level unified threat management (UTM) appliance appropriate for providing network and endpoint protection on small networks like remote or branch offices. Overkill for my home office, but I’m sure my kids will do their best to hammer on the network with a ridiculous number of connected devices.

And speaking of kids and devices, they’re horrified that I’ve inserted another firewall and content filter between the Internet and all of those devices. They thought they were done being firewall guinea pigs after I finished my book. Connecting those devices, most of which are wireless, is the job of the FortiAP unit. It’s a thin access point that can be managed from the FortiGate and powered only via an Ethernet cable.

I won’t bore you with a giant unboxing gallery. This is pretty cool stuff that goes way beyond the near consumer-grade equipment that many SMBs deploy. Even cooler stuff will be coming over the next couple of weeks as I really start to explore the units, their interfaces, and their function in real-world settings. Frankly, I can’t wait to start torturing the kids with QoS (“What, your game is lagging? Sorry, I’m on a webcast.”) and content filtering (“You don’t feel like doing the dishes? Did you ever want to send a Snapchat again?”).

In all seriousness, though, I’ll be chronicling what marketers like to call the “user journey”, just like any other new user of Fortinet gear. I’ll keep you posted. Next blog: just how easy is the setup and deployment of a FortiGate and FortiAP?

Title Not much bigger than a smoke detector - FortiAP, FortiGate, cables, and quick start manuals. Ok, that’s it. No boring unboxing galleries.

by RSS Chris Dawson  |  Nov 18, 2014  |  Filed in: Industry Trends