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Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

The security demands that their larger supply chain partners place on small and medium businesses (SMBs) means that they will soon be burdened with organising and managing security for themselves to a greater extent and financial cost than they currently do.

For some, outsourcing is the solution. For others, keeping it in-house makes more sense.

For those who fall into the latter group, security appliance vendor Trustix could be an attractive option.

Trustix's solutions are based on Trustix Secure Linux, delivered as a hardened system with all non-essential services disabled. The current version has features such as IPSec VPN functionality (FreeS/WAN) that supports a variety of other vendors' implementations, a stand-alone shell for system recovery (sash), a mail reader (mutt), and locate to make it easier to find files, particularly if archiving.

Trustix Secure Linux is designed to perform a number of services, including firewall, mail server (including archiving and an anti-virus/spam option), proxy server, LAN server and Web server. While you could run all services on one box, the company rightly point out that the firewall should be run on a dedicated box, lest other services are compromised.

By aiming at the SMB marketplace, Trustix has made big efforts to simplify software administration. It offers an automatic remote update using standard XML and HTTP protocols and the ability to create security policies by a click with the mouse, connecting entities (servers, services, VPN tunnels, port forwarding and more) with arrows representing actions by the firewall. Administration of digital certificates is also handled by the graphical user interface wizard.

Even so, this could be a bit of a leery exercise for SMBs. Trustix's solution is part of IBM's Linux portfolio and delivered through IBM's channel partners.

Intriguingly, SSL VPN is not supported. Given that the audience is SMBs it seems incongruous that the easiest means of implementing a VPN is not available in the Trustix offering. And the company seems to have no plans to include SSL VPN. Despite this omission, there is sufficient functionality in the Trustix offering for it to be gaining tenure as a player in IBM's SMB solutions strategy.

An alternative to Trustix is Guardian Digital's Linux Lockbox, another Open Source network server appliance designed to serve as a complete secure Internet solution. Like Trustix Secure Linux, Lockbox offers secure Web management and is delivered in a way that requires little in-house Linux expertise, though it is light on the VPN and mail security side.

Larger organisations might be drawn more to Red Hat's Enterprise Linux Stronghold Enterprise is that also targeted at the secure web server market.

Stronghold Enterprise offers a rich set of features including support of multiple UNIX platforms such as Solaris, HP-UX, FreeBSD, and Tru64. It also supports OpenSSL used for information encryption and authentication of sites and clients with X509 digital certificates. It's positioning towards the enterprise level is confirmed by support for hardware-based cryptographic accelerator cards from nCipher, AEP, Baltimore, and Broadcom.

So, why might you go the Linux route, especially as a SMB? Trustix are convinced that a large market is opening up for them where NT4 users are looking for cost-effective alternatives to a discontinued product. The company finds that they are selling on the strengths of the functionality of their server and secure mail gateway capabilities, and the firewall and higher security capabilities are a bonus.

Overall, one can see a viable alternative to Microsoft's portfolio in the SMB security space. © IT-Analysis.com

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