More than a dozen products, including the “free” versions shipped with Windows, can share an Internet connection with a SOHO or midsize business LAN. Most of these are some variation of a proxy server that stands between the network computers and the Internet connection. What distinguishes most of the products is not that they share an Internet connection but, in a word, control. With features such as site blocking, content filtering, firewall protection, SSL support, and user access rules, Infopulse’s Proxy-Pro Professional Gatekeeper excels at this aspect of a proxy server — and for a very good price to boot.
Infopulse’s Proxy-Pro Professional Gatekeeper offers all of the standard features expected in a proxy server, including site blocking, content filtering, and firewall protection. It also offers some unusual capabilities, like an Online Access Time module and extensive reporting and logging. All of this functionality is available for an unlimited number of users at a price even the most budget conscious of enterprises should love.
Detailed IP Setup
Any computer on a network with an Internet connection can run the Proxy-Pro server (the faster the computer, the better, of course). Installation and configuration of the server requires only minimal knowledge of IP and network jargon (e.g., DHCP and WINS). Most network-savvy people should be able to install Proxy-Pro server in about ten minutes.
The Proxy-Pro server can be configured locally or remotely via a browser-based program (Synergy Framework for Professional Gateway 4.5, free with Pro version). The browser program is well-designed and simplifies access to the many options and features, although we must note that it does take a while to configure Proxy-Pro to its full advantage.
Support for DNS and a DHCP server, along with a Client Setup Wizard, help automate some of the configuration chores. However, with Proxy-Pro, the network client computers should be individually configured (both their connections and software). This is not difficult, but it does take longer than proxy systems, such as Deerfield.com’s WinGate Pro, that can use NAT (Network Address Translation) to automatically establish client connections. Proxy-Pro relies on assigning IP addresses to workstations and recommends the use of a Proxy-Pro login program so that users can be identified.
Proxy-Pro has all the typical features of a good proxy server, such as an uncomplicated firewall, which provides all or nothing control over specific IP addresses. There’s an improved Web cache module that saves frequently visited Web pages, and which can speed up access time. Proxy-Pro will automatically dial an ISP for a connection, and disconnect if there is no traffic for a specified period of time. It can also schedule downloads for off-peak times of the day.
Although it doesn’t provide a mail server per se, Proxy-Pro can handle multiple mail accounts and supports both POP3 and IMAP4 inbound mail.
A user list can be built from the NT Domain database, and you can establish groups of users, which simplifies assigning access rights and times. New in version 4.5 is the Online Access Time module, which helps keep track of who’s online, when, and how much by assigning users access rights at various time periods and designating what they can access during each time. This is a very potent (and somewhat invasive) feature that takes some time to set up if the network has many users. In a similar vein (and amount of time to configure) Proxy-Pro has a number of optional constraints on users including: access to sites, activities (e.g., IM and chat), content, and concurrent downloads. In general, Proxy-Pro’s filtering and blocking control is good, but we wish that Infopulse could provide something like Ban Lists to help speed up entry of sites (or content) to be blocked.
Proxy-Pro’s logging, auditing, and statistical capabilities are outstanding, especially for a server in its price range. The premise behind them is: If an enterprise is going to bother to control its Internet connection, it ought to at least know what traffic is on those connections. New in this version are three major types of logging: auditing logging (who did what, when), IP logging (which connections and sites), and event logging. This last one is quite sophisticated; it offers tracking on when Proxy-Pro rules are broken and when there are system errors and other administrative activity.
In addition to logging, Proxy-Pro can generate a bevy of statistics to show activity by users, cache, dialer, DNS server, schedule, and the various proxies. All of this can be used to profile Internet activity, which can be a powerful tool not only for control but also to plan for resource usage.
One of Proxy-Pro’s most unusual features is that not only does it support a very large number of proxies and proxy mappings (e.g., HTTP, SSL, FTP, PPTP, Socks 4/5, UDP, POP3, and IMAP4), but it also allows the user to create more. A well-developed API and SDK (Software Development Kit) is free for those wishing to add their own proxy service, for example, customizing Proxy-Pro to handle company applications.
Proxy-Pro is also available in a Family Gateway version.
There are other products on the market that are easier to configure, and some products that add additional features like anti-virus and spam blocking services, but we found this version of Proxy-Pro Professional Gateway to be a very well-rounded package. And with a price point of $399 for an unlimited number of users, it’s also one of the least expensive proxy servers on the market.
Pros: Excellent security, logging, and proxy mapping capability;
Programmable with a free SDK
Cons: Client computer and software must be configured individually, as this is not a NAT-based proxy server.
Reviewed by: Nelson King
Original Review Date: 12/6/2002
Original Review Version: 4.5