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Demystifying Unified Threat Management (UTM)

written by: Ashwin Satyanarayana•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 7/4/2011

The Unified Threat Management ( UTM) software isn't really complicated even though it has a lot of software within it, which makes it a package. So what exactly is it? How does UTM work? What does it have within it?

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    As the complexity of Internet security is burgeoning, the complexity of security solutions is bound to increase too. Earlier, a simple firewall would have done the trick to ensure that your business is kept fare away from trouble. Now-a-days, even a UTM won’t do. As more and more threats are encountered there was a need for the businesses to bring in all sorts of software to help combat the problem -- so in came anti-virus packages, a stand-alone VPN (Virtual Private Network) etc. Each of these systems operating on their own proved too expensive.

    Enter Unified Threat Management systems (UTM) typically combine all of the above mentioned packages into one smart package which promises to be the one stop, effective shop for a well-rounded and overall network protection.

    Typically, According to IDC, UTM must consist of an operating system and an installation process that requires a minimum of human intervention. The appliance must have the ability to provide for a network firewall, intrusion detection and prevention (IDS/IPS) and gateway anti-virus (AV). All capabilities need not be utilized, but the functions must exist in the appliance. A UTM appliance may also include other features such as security management and policy management by group or user.

    Advantages of UTM:

    • Easy to use and deploy: These Unified Systems are really easy to use and deploy. They don’t need any hard-core technology expertise and small business owners without any background in IT can enable its use.
    • Plug-and-play interface: A simple install, set-up and run feature is one of the reasons why it is so popular.
    • Troubleshooting ease: There is no need to hire expensive technicians and IT specialists to troubleshoot.
    • Reducing staffing and administrative costs.

    Disadvantages of UTM

    • All-in-one is fine, but how good is each one of them? : Most of the consumers, mostly small businesses, always complain that the UTM products today lack some much required features in almost of those products that make up the whole of UTM. They have been reported to invest in software add-ons to make the best use of the software.
    • Performance: each of these individual parts that make up the whole are not said to be the best in their class software. So obviously, while there is a tangible benefit in having an all-encompassing solution to combat security, the actual software isn’t that great to write home about.