Small-Business Security

For cash-strapped, it-barren companies, all-in-one security appliances offer affordable protection. Here's how to make one work for your network.

Security is a process, not a product. Security experts often referred to this mantra, of security technologist and author Bruce Schneier, while we worked on this story. Their point: No device is going to be the static, bedrock answer to the security needs of a business, large or small.

This certainly applies to the all-in-one security appliances reviewed here. Each combines three key technologies: a firewall and protection from spam and viruses. For some, the idea of appliances implies simple "set-it-and-forget-it" devices, with all-encompassing protection. The reality, however, is that theyre more complex than this, and that theyre affordable and effective solutions only when combined with IT expertise and enforced security policies.

For small and medium-size businesses that are strapped for cash and have virtually no full-time IT staff, an all-in-one appliance is one of two affordable and relatively simple security options. The other is outsourcing security services entirely. Businesses that dont want any of the headaches involved with protecting their networks themselves should consider outsourcing. For more on this, see the sidebar "Managed Security Services."

Appliances put more of the responsibility on you, but some businesses just dont want to leave their network security in the hands of an outside source. Appliances range in price from $1,000 to $5,000, are easy for qualified consultants or VARs to set up, and are relatively simple to manage and update over time. And when you pick an all-in-one solution, you have only a single manufacturer to deal with, rather than three.