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Unified Threat Management Vendors Don't Excel

Our survey shows users aren’t fond of UTM appliances.

We asked IT professionals who've used or evaluated unified threat management products to tell us about their performance and features in our latest vendor evaluation survey. The upshot? Few are enthusiastic about the performance of these appliances.

UTM appliances incorporate a dedicated firewall, a URL filter, a standalone network malware-detection system and more into one device. Users just need the appliances to be good enough, while they get cost savings from not having to buy multiple threat management tools.

chart: UTM Overall Vendor Performance

Our 183 survey respondents rated five UTM vendors -- Check Point Software, Cisco Systems, Dell SonicWall, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper Networks -- on overall performance, which included reliability and acquisition costs, and on specific features.

Cisco, Juniper and Dell had top overall performance scores of 75%. Check Point was close behind with 74%, and HP 72%. If this were a school report card, these vendors all have C averages.

Respondents rated reliability and performance as the two most important features (averaging 4.6 and 4.5, respectively, on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being "very important). No surprise there. The one surprise is how low product innovation scored, landing No. 8 out of 10 criteria. Given the rapid innovation in malware vectors and zero-day threats, it's odd that UTM product innovation isn't a priority.

On specific performance criteria, almost all of the scores fell somewhere in the mid-3 range. Cisco stands out with both the lowest score for any product category (a 3.1 in acquisition cost) and the most scores of 4.0 or better (breadth of product line, performance and reliability). Check Point had performance and reliability scores of 3.9, and a 3.3 acquisition cost score. Given that reliability and performance are the criteria rated most important, it seems that Cisco and Check Point are targeting customers' needs well, but at a price.

Price-conscious buyers should take a look at Dell SonicWall and Juniper, each of which rated most favorably on acquisition cost, at 3.7. Both companies are known for offering reliable products. Dell tied Check Point's scores in performance (3.9) and reliability (3.9) while topping Check Point in breadth of product line (3.8), post-sales support (3.7), service innovation (3.6) and acquisition and operational cost, both at 3.7.

chart: Vendors Face Off
Jack Of All Trades

When asked to rate 12 UTM features on their relative importance, respondents say anti-malware, high availability for failover, central management and URL filtering are most desirable. The lowest score for a particular UTM feature was a 3.5 for Juniper's ICAP integration and the highest was a 4.2 for Juniper's HA and Cisco's VPN termination features. In general it seems as if each of the UTM products did at least acceptably well for each evaluation.

We also break out respondents' evaluations of vendors' performance around individual features. It's worth noting that Dell SonicWall earned ratings of 4.0 or 4.1 in six individual categories, the most among the vendors evaluated. Check Point and HP each had five categories with ratings of 4.0 or higher.

UTM products do most things well enough, without excelling in any area. Which you go with depends on your risk profile, industry, budget and IT expertise.

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