Kerio Control Review

Can be used with our customers' certificates; they can see their connections are properly secured


What is our primary use case?

We're using Kerio Control to protect our solutions in data centers and to provide VPN access, via the firewall, for our clients.

We're EPM specialists, we host and build EPM platforms which are financial software platforms used by large entities all over the world.

How has it helped my organization?

Where previously users were connecting via exotic firewall systems with no certificates on them, Kerio Control can be used with the certificates of the customer so that customers can also see that their connections are being properly secured on the sites that they are using. That helps them identify their sites and to distinguish their connection from other connections.

The solution has increased the number of VPN clients extended to those outside our environment. All our clients that we need to visit have a VPN solution. And the ones that we host in the data center are only accessible by a VPN client.

What is most valuable?

The VPN connection is the feature that we are actually using this solution for, but routing and checking what kinds of sites are being tested or accessed, is also helpful. That can be logged and reviewed to see if everything is going okay. It's for protection of the network behind it.

Kerio Control covers quite a lot, when it comes to security. There are, of course, always things missing in a product that you would like to have, and we have even questioned the vendor to see if they can provide one of the solutions that we would like to have in the product, but that does not seem to be the case at the moment. But for us, it covers almost everything we do with it, which makes it quite a suitable product for us.

The firewall and intrusion detection features are very useful these days because hackers have a lot of tricks that they use to get into a system. With Kerio Control you can see something that's happening. Otherwise, you have to use other tools to see what's happening on the firewalls. Having IPS in it is quite useful for us.

What needs improvement?

The content filtering in the product is pretty sensitive to configure as all content is being scanned. It can take quite some time to find out what content you want to scan. For example, if you use words for scanning content, there are some words that you really can't scan for because they are synonyms and can be used in all kinds of communications. Therefore you get false positives where it finds the word, but it's actually a case that you should ignore. That makes it a bit difficult to use it.

The VPN features are the ones that we really like, but we are using a VPN client to be able to use them. We would like to have an SSL implementation for this same feature so we don't need to install anything on the client side. That's a feature I really miss and that should really be embedded in the product. We really would love to use it via a web browser.

Another area for improvement is to be able to import users from a single text file. That functionality is really not developed enough and it is not easy to bulk-import users into a firewall. 

Finally, if you use a firewall product with a certificate, you can only use one VPN client on one domain name. So if I would serve multiple clients with one firewall, I cannot use different domain names. For example, if I put in the domain name test.com as a certificate name in the firewall, then all users, even if they are using it from different companies, have to use that certificate name as their client settings. That's really not appreciated. We would like to set up a firewall with unlimited users and use it for multiple smaller customers. Those companies use a service from us and we could use one firewall for that, but we can't, simply because we can only use one certificate. We can't use the name of the company with other companies. That's a lack of a feature and we miss it.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The product works well. We seldom have issues with the product, hardware-wise or software-wise, and we have firewalls that have been running for more than a year without even a reboot. The only reboot they get is when they need an update.

When they went from Kerio directly to GFI, GFI implemented some new software solutions in it and did some things their own way, which helped to make the product a bit safer than it already was. These were improvements that were really needed and we wanted as much as we possibly could get, and therefore are much appreciated.

The NG100, which is the lightweight firewall — and it can do pretty much the same as the large NG500 — has an external adapter and that has broken at least three or four times, and that's a problem. Even for those little firewalls, an adaptor should not break. It's probably because of heat dissipation or the like. We don't have this problem with the NG300, which also has an external adapter, but it's a bit different and a bigger adapter. The NG500 doesn't have that problem at all. It has an internal power supply and there's nothing wrong with it. We have never had one fail, so far.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

As it has an unlimited number of users that we can use it for, we haven't reached the limits of the product. It's a really fair product.

Our customers use it every day. We will increase usage of these firewalls if we have a customer for it.

How are customer service and technical support?

GFI's technical support is way too slow in terms of response times. Their knowledge is okay. They should know their products. Even though they bought Kerio, they were able to update the software with their developers and build some new routines in it.

But regarding the support, if I send out a solution or a request today, it's taking too long to get a proper answer. You should have an answer the same day, at least, and if possible a quick response via email. That would be preferable in our cases. I know that is not always possible. And that's for software issues. 

But if you have a hardware issue it's even worse because we are not able to get hardware maintenance on the firewalls. Ideally, within two hours of going down, a mechanic would come with a new firewall to replace it and to restore your saved configuration from the cloud. They don't have that. If a hardware issue arises with a firewall, then it takes at least a week, maybe a week-and-a-half, to get a new firewall sent by GFI. That's really not acceptable. If we have a hardware issue and we order something from some companies here in The Netherlands, we have it the next day. That would be acceptable.

We deal with that by having a spare NG500 lying around that we can use. We've never used it, so it's already three years old, doing nothing. But it's there.

How was the initial setup?

For us the initial setup is straightforward because we have been using it since the product was called WinRoute, which was 20 years ago, I believe. We pretty much know all about the firewalls and what we can do with them. So the setup for us is really easy to do.

On average, deployment of Kerio Control takes us maybe 30 minutes.

The implementation strategy depends on what the customer needs, and every customer needs something else. In general, the VPN setup is one of the things all customers need, and rules settings, open ports and closed ports, are part of some basic settings we use, but pretty much everything else is different for each customer.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Where we were using, for example, a VPN solution for 75 users, GFI has now changed the contracts to use the unlimited version, and that is a bit cheaper price-wise, compared to having 75-user account licenses.

But it's pretty expensive in licensing costs, especially if you use the product longer than one or two years. The licensing costs are still high, which I don't think is reasonable for a product like this.

The licensing should really be narrowed down and be at least one-tenth of the price. To give you an idea of costs, an NG500 costs about €3000, and the licensing costs are about €1400 to €1500 a year. They call it "maintenance," but they are not doing anything in terms of maintenance on my firewall. They just supply a little update and those updates really don't cover the price that they calculate for it.

By comparison, if you know what a Windows 10 workstation does on your local computer, you get the updates for free and the price of the installation is something like $100, and you can use it as long as the product is supported. That's a reasonable price, and it also has security. 

With those licensing costs for a little firewall, it's really disturbing because people look for different solutions when the price is too high. You can't make money off of it if you need to pay almost €1500 a year just to get the updates, and those are basically firewall updates. Of course, if there is a system update, like firmware, they will implement that as well. But it doesn't match the cost of what they are doing for us with it. It doesn't explain why these licensing costs are so extremely high.

As long as the product works we use it because we know the product. It's much easier to use an existing product than to swap over to a low-cost product that we are not familiar with. That is one of the reasons we use this product, but mostly because we never had a breach, which is, of course, pretty important now.

Everybody has a price when it comes to security. You can use a simple Windows Firewall on a virtual machine, which costs you almost nothing. And if you put the firewall on there and use it as a router, you can also connect VPN clients to it, but you're using the Microsoft solution for that. Kerio is based on a Linux kernel, which is pretty much free and they are asking a lot of money for a firewall because it's called a firewall and it should protect you. But in fact, they cannot guarantee that nobody will ever get through your firewall. Nobody is giving that guarantee to you, and that is why it's too expensive.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We have also worked with Cisco, FORTRESS, and Juniper. One of the main reasons that we're using Kerio is that the interface is really simple to handle. It's really laid out well.

I don't like the Cisco interface. In the old days, we had to do everything manually via the console; type in all kinds of stuff. Now, you just want to click something.

What other advice do I have?

Each implementer or solution specialist needs a product that fits the needs of the company or customer. That's totally dependent on each customer. If you have never seen a product like Kerio Control, it's still quite easy to implement the firewall. They're not too complex.

Not every customer wants to install a VPN client to get to a different network. Some of them want to have a browser solution where they just enter an address and they type in a username and password, even verified by a two-step verification. If they are verified and authenticated, they can use the different networks. I believe we had that kind of functionality in previous versions of Kerio, even when it was called WinRoute, but they took it out. These days, everything is being arranged by a browser but I understand why they took it away from the browser. It's because of the security flaws that are mostly in browsers and they're never up to date.  It doesn't matter whether you're using Firefox, Chrome, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, or Edge. They all have their things that are not working correctly. There are vulnerabilities in all browsers.

The biggest lesson I have used from using Kerio Control is that I would choose the NG500, the rack model, over any other model they have, as that has proven to be the most stable version and the most stable product. It just runs forever.

We are using three of Kerio Control's models. The NG100 is for really small solutions where you just need a firewall with VPN capabilities. They have a bit of a larger model, the NG300, which is suitable for faster solutions. And we have the enterprise solution, which is their fastest firewall, the NG500, and that's a rack model firewall.

The antivirus helps people who are uploading files, so that they are scanned. That's not what we are using it for, but our experience with the internal firewalls are a bit different because you can also use an external firewall in the product itself. And now it comes with Defender, which currently works well. For what it is scanning, it's working fine.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor. The reviewer's company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
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