Personal Firewall for up to three PCs, from iolo Technologies, is one of the flashiest apps on the block, but in such a competitive market, will it do enough to really impress?
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Here we have a fairly small company launching a product that's competing in a packed niche full of large corporations. Other products from Iolo include the better known System Mechanic (see review at http://www.brighthub.com/review/iolo/Paul-Pardi/article/357.html), an application that tunes up your PC and makes sure it is in excellent working condition. To see a firewall solution coming from the same company was somewhat surprising.
Almost every computer now has some sort of firewall, whether it's installed by the manufacturer, is part of the OS (such as Windows Firewall), or is purchased from a retail store. Most users will understand the importance of a personal firewall, but this is where my doubts begin: How can a company with a smaller budget, less expertise, and (most importantly) very little brand recognition gain a foothold in the firewall niche? Let's see.
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Installation & Setup
After downloading, the installation is straightforward; a quick reboot and it's on to the configuration. iolo provides a simple setup wizard that covers every feature; you will probably not need to change things later, as they are all covered.
One small gripe: iolo Personal Firewall allows you to add your most recently visited/favorite websites to the allowed list, but this feature only works with Internet Explorer. If you use another browser, you will have to add the sites manually. After that you're all done; it's even updated to the latest version.
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The user interface is very pretty but it's also not particularly user friendly. On the home screen alone, there are three links to the Options menu which is a little excessive. Things also pop up from anywhere and the UI just doesn't seem too well thought out. Other solutions offer simple indications of system status, too; there isn't much around to help you here.
That said, the menus are laid out in a simple scrolling format and aren't hidden away. It's the clutter that lets it down especially since iolo Personal Firewall has some very nicely designed interfaces and logos.
iolo, clean up the clutter, and it'll be great.
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iolo Personal Firewall seems to offer the same protection as its larger rivals, and port scans and probes will confirm this. The only thing against it is lack of configuration and reporting!
There are very few options to change and the application seems to automatically deal with most events rather than asking you as others do. While this may not sound like a bad thing, at least others offer the option to turn the feature off--Iolo does not seem to have it at all! The reporting detailed one blocked event within a period of a couple of hours, through heavy usage and testing with a variety of different applications.
For anyone who needs to easily change port settings and application access, there isn't much help or scope for making changes.
As a result of these shortcomings, Iolo has created a very easy-to-use iolo Personal Firewall application and although it may not be of much use to networking professionals and businesses, it would be great for computer-illiterate households. You can't break it--and it does all the work for you.
In short: iolo Personal Firewall has all the features, and manages them itself.
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There's not much that a firewall can do wrong except if it's made by Norton or McAfee. Their firewalls consume huge amounts of system resources and make any slower system crawl. iolo is a much lighter alternative and puts less of a strain on your system.
It never experienced issues while I was reviewing, and iolo Personal Firewall offers a better level of protection that Windows Firewall. It's a good choice for the speed-conscious.
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Help & Support
iolo offers free any-time support, fast response to any questions or queries, and knows what's what.
They also pointed me in the direction of some interesting test applications that scan your system for errors. This lead to the purchase of their maintenance suite. I was impressed by the accuracy of the scans and the responsiveness of the support team. (Even if they did manage to convert me.)
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iolo Personal Firewall currently has a huge advantage as it uses very few system resources. If Iolo were to do some cleaning up, add better reporting, and possibly a few more options, while maintaining its small footprint, it would be a serious competitor to other personal firewall software.
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iolo Personal Firewall offers basic protection at a cheap price. It's got a pretty interface that covers the basics which is enough for the average user. If you're on a budget and looking to stop hackers, then iolo Personal Firewall is great. But if you require a more complete suite with more options and greater flexibility, this product isn't for you.
I started this review with my unique requirements in mind, but soon realized that what I want isn't what most users want. iolo is looking for a niche within a niche. It is looking for users who need simple protection that works, and for this, iolo Personal Firewall makes a good choice. iolo Personal Firewall is a simple firewall solution. It's great on resources and good on cost.
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Norton Personal Firewall, Norton Internet Security, McAfee