SonicWall SRA 4600 Delivers Secure Network Access for Remote Workers

REVIEW: Dell's SonicWALL SRA 4600 combines remote access, SSL VPN, application firewall and desktop support in a svelte 1U rack mount appliance that can handle up to 500 remote users.

Dell's acquisition of SonicWall has started to bear fruit, at least with the latest edition of SonicWall's Secure Remote Access product line.

The new SRA 4600, which started shipping in early November, is now emblazoned with Dell's logo along with the established SonicWall brand name. Beyond the new packaging, the SRA 4600 is still all SonicWall on the inside—which is a good thing for those who have come to rely on earlier products from the company when it was still independent.

The primary purpose of the SRA 4600 is to bring secure remote access (hence the SRA moniker) to mobile workers across the enterprise, effectively extending a secure network connection out to road warriors, remote offices, and even bring your own device (BYOD) practitioners, a group that is growing at a rapid pace.

Easy deployment and administration make the SRA 4600 a sensible choice for midsized enterprises that need to support a mobile and remote work force of up to 500 individuals, while providing a high level of protection to corporate applications.

However, the SRA 4600 does a lot more than just connect those remote workers. Several options, features and capabilities enhance the value of the device, while unifying the network access management of a remote work force. What's more, the SRA 4600 includes capabilities, such as remote support (through a help desk remote-control portal) and collaboration.

The SRA 4600 comes as a 1U rack mounted device and sports four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the front of the unit. There is also a console port and a pair of USB ports. In most cases, you will only need to use the Ethernet ports, since the device can be set up just using an IP connection and a Web browser.

A power receptacle and a power switch are located on the back of the unit, as well as the cooling input and output ports. I found the device to be rather noisy, with a loud cooling fan. However, if installed in a rack, the noise will be drowned out by all the other rack mounted devices in the typical server rack.

While that may be a minor point, cooling is still an important consideration, and that noisy fan does move quite a bit of air, keeping the device cool to the touch. However, there are no dust filters, meaning that a controlled environment is the best place for the unit.

Easy Deployment

Cooling and dust concerns aside, I found the SRA 4600 very easy to deploy. It took little more than powering it up, connecting an Ethernet cable to a management PC and then temporarily setting up some TCP/IP systems to launch the browser-based console. The only way this could have been easier is if the SRA 4600 used Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) out of the box and a piece of client software for discovery was installed on a management system to "find" the device.

Nevertheless, since the device is designed to live in the network DMZ, DHCP IP assignment is probably not an option. That said, basic setup still proved straightforward and simple.

Things did get a little more complicated when it came to registering and licensing the SRA 4600. Licenses are delivered to the system using a service called MYSonicWall, which is a customer Website where I had to register the device and acquire the licenses.