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    Network Security Appliances Explained

    Often used by organizations to ease remote management and to cut costs, a network server appliance is a typically inexpensive computer that enables Internet access and some business-related activities.

    What is a Network Appliance?

    Often used by organizations to ease remote management and to cut costs, a network server appliance is a typically inexpensive personal computer (sometimes called a thin client) that enables Internet access and some business-related activities. Applications used on network appliances typically are housed on a Web server accessed by the appliance.

    Closed Box Systems

    Network appliances lack many of the features of a fully equipped PC, and are often referred to as “closed box systems” as they provide a complete solution consisting of limited hardware and software that is needed to perform a single or specialized set of functions. This hardware device allows for quick installation, ease-of-use, low maintenance and is typically managed through a Web browser. Increasingly, we’re seeing appliances used in network security to replace more traditional software-based security solutions.

    UTM: Unified Threat Management

    Popular with business and enterprise, Unified Threat Management (UTM) is a category of security appliances that integrates a range of security features into a single appliance. UTM appliances combine firewall, gateway anti-virus, and intrusion detection system (IDS) or intrusion prevention capabilities into a single platform. UTM is designed protect users from blended threats while reducing complexity. UTM appliances offer a way to manage multiple appliances from a single location, create and manage global security policies, provide real-time monitoring and logging, as well as provide a single interface to manage security. Its basically the evolution of traditional firewall and VPN (virtual private network) solutions that incorporates many additional products and services.

    Network security appliances generally consist of a set of network management and security tools that are installed on-site. Many network security appliances will also provide organizations with secure VPN for remote access.

    Terms to Know: Network Appliance Security Tools

    (IPS) intrusion prevention system: An IPS, or intrusion prevention system is used in computer security. It provides policies and rules for network traffic along with an intrusion detection system for alerting system or network administrators to suspicious traffic, but allows the administrator to provide the action upon being alerted. Some compare an IPS to a combination of IDS and an application layer firewall for protection.

    (IDS) intrusion detection system: An intrusion detection system (IDS) inspects all inbound and outbound network activity and identifies suspicious patterns that may indicate a network or system attack from someone attempting to break into or compromise a system. An IDS evaluates a suspected intrusion once it has taken place and signals an alarm. An IDS also watches for attacks that originate from within a system.

    (VPN) virtual private network: A network that is constructed by using public wires to connect nodes. For example, there are a number of systems that enable you to create networks using the Internet as the medium for transporting data. These systems use encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.

    firewall: A system designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network. Firewalls can be implemented in both hardware and software, or a combination of both. Firewalls are frequently used to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private networks connected to the Internet, especially intranets. All messages entering or leaving the intranet pass through the firewall, which examines each message and blocks those that do not meet the specified security criteria.

    antivirus scanning: A utility that searches a hard disk for viruses and removes any that are found. Most antivirus include an auto-update feature that enables the program to download profiles of new viruses so that it can check for the new viruses as soon as they are discovered.

    content/spam filter: A pattern through which data is passed. Only data that matches the pattern is allowed to pass through the filter. In this case the filters would block based on a list of Web sites, blocking illegal, objectionable or non-business-related content.

    Continue reading to learn more about common network security options.


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    Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.

    This article was originally published on July 28, 2005