Langa Letter: Firewall Feedback

<b>Fred Langa</b> tests the new crop of desktop firewalls, makes his recommendations--and wants to hear about your experiences.

Fred Langa, Contributor

April 9, 2002

3 Min Read

Bottom Line
While the differences among these products are real, there's not a dog in the bunch. Any of these desktop firewalls will dramatically improve your online security. (It's a sign of the times--and how much online insecurity we all face--that an entire group of products can achieve such high standards.) But let's get specific:

I'm intrigued by Agnitum Outpost and believe it bears close watching. As is, it already seems to be a fine choice for a small office or home office system. It may prove itself suitable for large-scale deployment, especially if Agnitum can retain the high level of customer service it's becoming noted for. I plan to use Outpost on several of my machines and to stay abreast of future developments with the software and the company.

Tiny Firewall's central management features may make it well suited for enormous installations, and its basic security features can work fine anywhere, down to smaller enterprises and even single-user situations. Its small size makes it especially well suited for older, resource-limited machines and laptops. But it's less informative--even a little spartan--compared with the other firewall offerings, and so it's not my first choice.

I really like Sygate Personal Firewall, in part because I find it the most openly informative of all the firewalls I've used. You're usually just a click away from getting a wealth of additional information about what's going on with any connection. (That's important on machines where easy and immediate access to detailed connection data is important, such as on Internet connection-sharing boxes.) But despite this power, Sygate Personal Firewall is very easy to set up and use, and it has a very nice look and feel. I think it's well worth evaluating for any desktop firewall application.

I'm ambivalent about ZoneAlarm Pro 3. If you've already paid for a subscription to the ZoneAlarm Pro software, you might as well go ahead and get the version 3 updates. In fact, ZoneAlarm Pro's automatic update feature will nag you to do so, if it hasn't already (that's how I ended up with ZoneAlarm Pro 3.0 on one machine here). But if you aren't already running some version of ZoneAlarm Pro, I'm not sure it's worth the extra money. Instead, I think the standard version of ZoneAlarm--or a version of Sygate Personal Firewall--is probably a better buy.

Your Choice?
Here's where you come in. Please click to the discussion area and post your firewall experiences: pro, con, or otherwise. Which software have you used? Which ones are worth the price of an upgrade to the paid or pro versions? Has a firewall ever let you down or caused instability in your system such that you couldn't use it? Have you had any tech support experiences from any firewall vendor?

There's strength in numbers, so let's pool our knowledge. Please join in the discussion!

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