Review: Vasco's aXs Guard

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Review: Vasco's aXs Guard

When most people think of Vasco they think of strong authentication. The aXs Guard Authentication and Internet Security Appliance takes the company’s strong authentication expertise one step further and combines it with a fully functional UTM.

This appliance not only has UTM features such as firewall, IPS, gateway malware protection from viruses, worms, spam, and spyware, VPN, and SSL-VPN, it also works with Digipass to provide strong authentication.

However, not all this functionality is easy to use. The device comes completely unconfigured all the way down to the first step, which is to create the administrator user. Once the administrator is created, all configuration is done manually without the help of a wizard. On top of all that, the web GUI used for administration is awkward and hard to navigate, and certain features and configurations are hard to understand. For a product of this complexity we would have really liked to see a setup wizard.

Still, we found that once we got past the configuration barriers, this appliance has some great performance features. Since it does also bring two-factor authentication to the table, it can be configured to integrate directly into an existing Radius and Active Directory infrastructure. This can be an excellent way to configure both authentication and network usage policies.

Documentation for the aXs Guard is in two forms. One is a getting-started guide that includes some basic information and definitions, as well as the initial setup process. This guide is nicely organised and includes many screenshots, but does not give and step-by-step instruction or examples, which can lead to confusion in some steps. The other documentation is provided once the appliance is up and running. These are software-generated manuals with context-specific help.

Vasco offers both phone and email support during office hours. Extra help is available with a support contract.

At a price of US$12,500 for 100 users with licenses, this product can seem pricey at first, but one must also consider that it is really like getting two products in one box. However, we do find this product to be an average value for the money for total cost of ownership due to its difficult configuration and management.

For: Comprehensive UTM and strong authentication in one appliance
Against: Hard to manage and configure
Verdict: A solid product with some unusual features, but it's a bit tough on the administrator

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