Network Firewall considerations

I am looking to upgrade my existing Sonicwall TZ170 firewall.  I have talked with other IT people, and a number of vendors and am getting a wide range of recommendations.  My environment is: we are a small school with 6 office staff, 14 teachers and up to 70 students online.  I am connected to the Internet with a 50/10 business class cable modem.   I need to add VPN capability.  I do not need content filtering as I am currently using an external DNS service to do my filtering - although, if I can save $ by replacing my external service with the firewall I would not be adverse.

So,  I am seeking recommendations from users with first-hand experience in a similar environment.

Thanks
Ken HerrIT DirectorAsked:
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carlmdConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Sonicwall's are used in many school environments. It is relatively easy to manage with access to the browser based interface from the LAN or WAN (if you choose to configure this).

There is a collection of helpful configuration and other information for school use on the Sonicwall support site.

For the cost, I think it would be a wise choice.
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bbaoIT ConsultantCommented:
so what's the major problem driving you to upgrade the network infrastructure? any bottleneck and where? any performance decrease and how?

i personally also use TZ170 at home office and it is still working very well.
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Natty GregConnect With a Mentor In Theory (IT)Commented:
I am using Pf-sense, easy to setup, and old computer and some tech savvy you'll be up and running in no time.
no need to pay for DNS service, there is plenty of free ones, you can set up you're on proxy with content filtering. along with traffic shaping.  proxy with content filtering saves bandwidth since it caches regular pages and served them up asap.
and will auto update the page in the cache, so each computer do not have to hit the internet if the page they want is already cache.

You can use the vpn wizard to setup openvpn and there is an export utility package you download into pfsense that will export the vpn client settings for windows and mac.

I have set this up for a print shop, to save on bandwidth usage
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carlmdConnect With a Mentor Commented:
For the environment you describe, I would consider nothing smaller than an NSA220.

With the Secure Upgrade Plus program you can get an NSA220 with all services and maintenance for 2 years for about $1,350.
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Ken HerrIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
bbao,
Our network usage has outgrown our TZ170.  It was installed when we had less than a dozen users.  We now have a lot of students and staff relying upon Internet connectivity and the is slowing things down considerably.

nattygreg,
I have to disagree that we can do away with OpenDNS.  The security and peace of mind it gives me in complying with CIPA and other regulatory requirements for schools requires something more robust than a free DNS.  The only way I would do away with OpenDNS is if the firewall provided as comprehensive, managed, filtering.

carlmd,
Thank you for the recommendation.  I have been focusing in on the NSA220.  I had other IT folks recommending the TZ215 and that just seemed under-powered for what I need.  Others have suggested the Cisco ASA5505 which also seemed under-powered and I have heard that it is more difficult to manage.
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Natty GregIn Theory (IT)Commented:
I dint know you were using opendns, you said paid so I was suggesting to use something like opendns which is free an does provide filtering. However with Pfsense you have filtered list that are robust and you can tighten up your network even more. With Pfsense you can make the pc as powerful as you want.
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Ken HerrIT DirectorAuthor Commented:
nattygreg
Actually, we are using the OpenDNS Enterprise paid product which gives us a lot of flexibility in filtering by category or specific web sites.  Thanks for your feedback - it all is helping make my decision a bit clearer.
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