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Netscape Proxy Server -- High-end proxy server and firewall for Windows NT and UNIX

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Jun 25, 2002


Available separately or as part of Netscape's SuiteSpot family of servers, Netscape Proxy Server is a solid choice for the corporation wanting to move past basic proxy-server functionality and add some security and filtering capabilities.

Unlike Microsoft Proxy Server 2.0, Netscape Proxy Server 3.5 isn't positioned as both a firewall and a proxy server. Instead, Netscape Proxy Server is designed to work in conjunction with other firewall products while at the same time moving past basic caching functions by adding the ability to read incoming data for viruses and performing basic content filtering. Like all the products in this field, Netscape Proxy Server caches data both for users querying your Web sites and for your own network users querying the external Internet (known more informally as "extranet proxying"). And, with a price of $525 per 100 users and availability on a wide variety of UNIX and Windows NT platforms, Netscape Proxy Server is a reasonably priced proxy server. Available separately or as part of Netscape's SuiteSpot family of servers, Netscape Proxy Server is a solid choice for the corporation wanting to move past basic proxy-server functionality and add some security and filtering capabilities.

Larger sites can set up more than one proxy server and distribute the load, as well as provide some level of fault tolerance, via a proxy array. Netscape Proxy Server supports the industry-standard Internet Cache Protocol (ICP) for configuring the proxy array, as well as Microsoft's Cached Array Routing Protocol (CARP). Netscape does take a different approach to caching, though, by giving you the power to set up an array of proxies and determining what cache will function as the parent of other caches down the hierarchy.

Perhaps the most noteworthy functionality of Netscape Proxy Server is its filtering capabilities. Like every other proxy server, Netscape Proxy Server prevents access to specific URLs, as well as ranges of IP addresses. You can also configure Netscape Proxy Server to use a content filter (such as Spyglass's SurfWatch), and you can install filters for specific data types, such as ActiveX and MIME, on individual Web pages. Finally, FTP and HTML data can be scanned for viruses thanks to the inclusion of Interscan Virus-Wall anti-virus software from Trend Micro.

Netscape Proxy Server excels at the level of control over the cached data. Individual HTML and FTP objects can be assigned a expiration date - or, in Netscape parlance, a Time to Live (TTL) - as well as a "last modified" multiplier that updates a cached document based on the last time it was truly updated. The multiplier works under the assumption that infrequently updated documents need to be updated within the cache, and so the server won't spend a lot of time updating objects that probably don't need to be updated.

Additional protocols supported by Netscape Proxy Server (other than the usual proxy targets) include most TCP and UDP traffic types, such as streaming audio and video. This is accomplished through the support of SOCKS 5, which also presents a wide variety of parameters for user authentication (you can, for instance, require user authentication based on a host mask) and whether reverse DNS lookups can occur. Whereas Microsoft Proxy Server splits support for SOCKS and Winsock into two separate servers, Netscape Proxy Server supports both in a single server.

All of this sounds complicated - and it can be - but administrative tasks are made simpler thanks to Java-browser-based administration via the Netscape Administration Server. This means that system administration can be performed from anywhere on the network or the Internet. Such flexibility is typical of Netscape Proxy Server, making it a worthy choice for the corporation wishing to add advanced proxy capabilities.

Pros: 7 Advanced filtering capabilities, 7 SOCKS v5 support, 7 Web-based administration, 7 Virus checking, 7 Cross platform compatibility

Cons: 7 Limited security features

New: 7 Support for proxy arrays, 7 Dynamic proxy routing, 7 Cache Array Routing Protocol (CARP) support, 7 LDAP support, 7 SOCKS v5 support; 7 Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 5

New: v3.52
Upgrade Meter: 1

Version Reviewed: 3.5
Date of Review: 4/23/98
Reviewed by: Kevin Reichard Last Updated: 7/29/99

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