Tools Of The Trade: 3Com's OfficeConnect VPN Firewall box for securing computer networks

Half of British IT directors ranked security ahead of cost cutting as a major issue in a survey earlier this year. With the growth in virus and hacking attacks, it is easy to see why.

Implementing good security for a computer network can be expensive and complicated. So networking manufacturers are responding with equipment that should plug into an internet connection and provide good security in hours, not days.

Manufacturer 3Com has designed its OfficeConnect VPN Firewall box for smaller networks, although it can support up to 253 users. The box screens traffic for attacks from outside, as well as supporting virtual private network (VPN) connections for remote users.

At its most basic level, setting up the VPN Firewall means plugging in one wire to the office network, another to a broadband router or modem, and following the box's set-up wizard. As long as the person installing it has their network's internet settings to hand, the process is quick and painless.

But the VPN Firewall comes with a host of other functions, making it more flexible but also more complex. One potentially useful option is content filtering: companies can opt to block access to unsuitable websites, and to restrict access to the net from some computers. This is a good way to protect machines in public areas such as reception.

The VPN function lets companies set up secure connections for staff out of the office, so they can download files and use the email system as if they were in the building.

Running a virtual private network through a standalone box takes pressure off a company's servers, so the relatively small investment needed for a unit such as the VPN Firewall should pay for itself quickly. Making the most of these features, though, entails a reasonable knowledge of networking. And services such as content filtering require a subscription. In use, though, the box did its job, blocking attempts to connect to a test network from beyond the firewall. In some ways, the unit is too efficient, as it also thwarted legitimate attempts to pick up email from a server, even though the firewall was configured according to the server's instructions.

Again, this is an area where a small company might quickly find it needs the services of a networking engineer. And the cost of this could well exceed that of buying the VPN Firewall in the first place.

However, it is a worthwhile investment. Companies that suffer severe security breaches often do not live to tell the tale.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pros: plenty of features, easy to set up for simple networks, low cost.

Cons: documentation for advanced features could be better; content filtering requires subscription.

Price: £197.98 (


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living