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Hardware Firewalls

This is a dedicated computer with a minimum two network cards, can be a 19” rack mount unit, a free standing box or just an old computer not powerful enough for todays Operating Systems, but more than enough for a home/small business firewall.

Our favorite is Smoothwall, and it's free, it's easy to install and maintain, you don't need to be a Linux wiz, virtually everything can be controlled or monitored from a web browser after the initial installation. Version 2 runs for months without a reboot, Version 3 just released August 2007, and has now had couple of fixes as of March 2008, and appears to be quite usable.

Version 2 is still available for download, should you like to try it. 2.1 includes all the fixes, nine last time I looked.

Smoothwall Express 3 minimum hardware specification is 200Mhz Pentium, 128Mb Ram and 2Gb hard disk, I've had a problem with 2.6Gb disk full while running the web proxy, pop3 proxy and some quite heavy web use. On the forums it has suggested 6.4Gb may solve the problem. The 2.6Gb worked great with Version 2.

Version 3.0 monitors a lot more than version 2.0, and you select what you want it to monitor

You require a Monitor, Keyboard and CDrom just for the initial installation. There is an option to boot from floppies with version 3?, there are two image files on the CD which are floppies but the first one is 2.8 Mb? There doesn't appear to be any reference to booting from floppies in the installation guide, and there isn't a raw write program, there was on the Version 2 CD but not sure whether it supports 2.88 floppies. I don't think this will be a problem for many as I'm sure most will boot from CD.

It supports 4 Network connections, a Green for your usual workstations, and a Red for your internet connection which can be a NIC (Ethernet modem), USB modem, or PCI Modem, A Purple for your wireless connection (this isn't in version 2) and an Orange for your web/ftp server. You select what configuration you want to use during the installation.

Start by downloading the iso file from the website along with the two manuals (Installation manual is on the CD as well), you may have to register to be able to download the administrators guide. Use Nero, etc to burn the iso image to a CD.

Then boot the computer with the CD, after setting the bios to boot CD first. As you select which Network card is assigned to each interface it will be useful to mark them for easy installation if you move it. When setting DNS and gateway settings, set the IP to the next device down the line, This would be your router/modem, if you use a NIC or possibly your Red interface if USB or PCI modem is used.

Once you've installed the firewall in your system, you can access the control panel from the Green network with a web browser in the form

It takes a bit of time to find your way around, more so with version 3 as there's a lot more to it, Snort the firewall detection system now requires you to go and get the Snort rules from, and get an Oink code so it will update itself in the future.

There are forums on the Smoothwall website, specially for add on's, but you need to be a Linux geek if you want to go that route. And this is your only means of support if you require it. You can go to for the commercial version, where they have different versions and add on modules and of course better support.

You can shell to the OS from the web browser window but I believe most use PuTTY should it be neccessary. And to FTP use WinSCP.