Offering both an IPSec and SSL VPN solution, FortiClient works as part of overall endpoint security setups, seeks to provide an effective option for companies that use remote working.

Created by a US-based tech company which has been exploring security solutions since 2000, it mixes up encryption, threat detection, and much more, and could theoretically suit small, medium, or larger organizations.

But is it the right VPN for your professional needs? This FortiClient review will explain everything you need to know.

Security features

Here are the main FortiClient security features to get us started:

  • SSL or IPSec tunneling protocols to create encrypted connections between remote devices and corporate networks.
  • Anti-malware and anti-exploit tools, with special web filters for different URL categories, tools to lock down Cloud storage systems, and a solid firewall that can be toggled for various apps.
  • Fully customizable authentication settings for clients and employees, with the use of web certification to ensure only authorized users gain access to business assets.

That’s a decent foundation to create secure remote working setups. The option of using SSL or IPSec VPN connections is welcome, and not found with all corporate VPNs. This should make it relatively easy to optimize speeds and find settings that balance load and security.

Many businesses now use a mixture of locally held data sources and Cloud resources, so it’s good to see that Fortinet have included tools to allow remote access to both locations, and with sophisticated certification and authentication options, keeping malicious actors away from sensitive information should be doable.

Speaking of authentication, FortiClient can be used with various forms of 2FA (2-Factor Authentication), so users don’t need to rely solely on passwords.

With those security options in place, companies should be able to ensure that their employees remain anonymous (as far as external observers are concerned), access to endpoints can be properly monitored, and data integrity remains solid.

Overall, in terms of security, the FortiClient VPN compares well with alternatives.

Privacy features

While FortiClient definitely enhances the local anonymity and privacy of network users, does it actually provide privacy as far as Fortinet is concerned?

One place to look for clues is the Fortinet Privacy Policy. This shows that Fortinet gathers IP data for threat detection purposes (which is hard to avoid), and various forms of personal data are collected for marketing reasons. This includes physical locations, device information, age, gender, “photographs”, system logs, traffic data, and interactions with Fortinet customer service or forums.

That’s quite a lot of data to hand over, and it may not just find its way to Fortinet. As a US-based company, it is mandated to “comply with law and protect rights, safety and property,” and may well share data with security agencies if requested.

Much of that information gathering is related to providing anti-virus services, but some may see it as overkill. And one thing’s for certain: users won’t enjoy privacy when they use FortiClient. That’s not exactly unusual with corporate VPNs, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Features, installation, and deployment

Fortinet has made its VPN available for an impressive range of platforms, including:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
  • iOs
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • ChromeBook and Google Chrome

The client is very simple and easy to use. It can be set to automatically connect, or accessed via desktop icons (or used with Chrome). Users won’t have many options to customize their connections, limiting the scope for conflicts and security errors. Instead, they just enter their authentication details – everything else is dealt with via the FortiGate interface.

Installation can be achieved via downloads, or with a secure USB stick or cable. And when the client is up and running, updating the client shouldn’t be a chore. Managers can set up an EMS installer to do the job automatically, or download manually via the “help > about” menu.

The FortiClient can also be integrated easily with other Fortinet products, which naturally increases the cost, but delivers several security benefits. For example, FortiGuard offers enhanced perimeter security via sophisticated firewalls, you can add email security and anti-DDoS tools, and specialist systems to provide Cloud security. So there’s plenty of scope to create custom-built security setups for any business.

What about the downsides? Well, Fortinet has a habit of adding tools that auto-install if users aren’t careful. This includes anti-virus apps that many users simply won’t need, and will surely transmit plenty of data to Fortinet HQ when they are running in the background. And if you choose not to install the anti-virus tools, an icon appears which constantly prompts users to install them. To some people, this may look like anti-virus and firewall tools are running, when they actually aren’t.

So, the bottom line here is that FortiClient is elegantly simple and effective in most situations. But as with all VPNs, there are some possible flaws, and things that buyers will want to weigh up when deciding what security solution to employ.

Plans and pricing

Fortinet tends to work via resellers, so buyers can’t make a purchase from the company itself (which may have consequences for customer support). However, buyers can request a quote from Fortinet’s sales team, which is a good starting point.

Prices will vary for the FortiClient VPN Client, so these prices are illustrative, not definitive. For example, some resellers FortiClient.asp”>offer the FortiClient Endpoint Security package for:

  • $433 for one year, assuming 100 ChromeOS users
  • $693 for general FortiClient Enterprise Management tools  for 100 users
  • $1,298 for 3 years and 100 ChromeOS users
  • $2,164 for 5 years and 100 ChromeOS users.
  • $3,463 for the general EMS tools for 5 years and 100 users

Those packages come with 24/7 support from the reseller concerned. If they are a good guide, the prices aren’t too high for smaller businesses. There’s no need to purchase hardware to implement the Fortinet VPN client. Customers just buy the Fortinet management tools and licenses for “X” users. Prices per user are generally competitive with similar tools.

Additionally, Fortinet offers a handy trial service, which gives a taster of what to expect. This includes the main EMS, and capacity for 10 client connections. The company doesn’t offer a generous money-back guarantee or anything like that, so giving FortiClient a try is a wise move.

Overall, prices aren’t too bad for entry level users, and there’s a decent level of flexibility. However, larger companies with more demanding, complex requirements, may prefer providers like Cisco, which offer more scalable solutions.

Performance

Speed matters when assessing corporate VPNs, but it isn’t everything. Security comes first. Still, if VPNs really lag behind the competition, it can render them irrelevant, and Fortinet may have a problem here. Users regularly complain of speed dips in the region of 90%, which isn’t acceptable.

However, these speeds often arise due to switching issues and setup problems – not the VPN itself. The actual IPSec/SSL connections rate fairly well on speed tests, and we found that they performed capably. Nevertheless, customers may well need to consult customer support to achieve the best speeds possible, and that’s where we need to turn next.

Customer support

When you’re setting up a business VPN, having attentive, helpful support really matters. As we noted above, Fortinet provides its products via resellers, which often means that support is delegated to vendors, sometimes with damaging results. That’s not the case with Fortinet though, who offer the following support options:

  • Knowledge Base with easy drop down menus for all Fortinet products
  • Discussion forums
  • Various training and certification processes
  • A video library which explains common installation and usage issues
  • Live chat
  • 24/7 phone support for customers across North America
  • In-depth technical assistance via the FortiCare Support Portal

That’s a good spread of options, and ensures that almost all clients will be able to resolve their technical issues. We contacted Fortinet about adding extra devices to a FortiClient network, and managing non-employee access, and the responses were prompt, efficient, and to the point.

Customers shouldn’t encounter too many problems when installing the VPN or getting the most from their purchase, and they can count on in-person assistance. That’s superior to many competitors in the lightweight corporate VPN market, who outsource support to save costs.

Bottom line

As this FortiClient review has found, Fortinet’s corporate VPN is definitely a contender, especially for smaller companies. Offering simple clients and enough security features to enable safe remote working, it couples with other security products to provide all-round protection, and isn’t too expensive either.

Pros

  • Excellent customer support
  • Easy to setup, simple client
  • IPSec and SSL-based VPN solutions offer excellent security
  • Integrates with anti-virus and threat detection systems
  • Relatively affordable for small and medium sized enterprises

Cons

  • Far from the fastest corporate VPN
  • Extensive data gathering by FortiNet parent company
  • Clunky Linux clients
  • Issues with auto-installation of antivirus software when installing client