SonicWall VPN offers what it calls “a safe policy-enforced secure access to mission-critical applications and data.” That’s quite a lot to digest in one sentence, but it boils down to a simple offer. At its root. SonicWall offers a way to encrypt incoming and outgoing data for organizations that rely on remote access.

Does SonicWall VPN offer a reliable service for businesses who need secure remote access? Let’s find out.

Security features

As usual, VPNs stand or fall based on their security features. Here’s what SonicWall has to offer on the security side of things:

  • Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or IPSec based encryption between devices using the SonicWall VPN client or SonicWall Netextender software. Both create a secure VPN tunnel, using RSA encryption keys to authenticate data and user identities.
  • Real-time security updates via the SonicWall Capture Threat Network and the SonicWall Security Center.
  • Easy to customize access management for all users via Netextender tools, enabling Firewall management, per-app access, and centralized tools to manage all connected devices.
  • Specialist phishing protection for emails via SonicWall Email Security, and filters to prevent malicious downloads via SonicWall Secure Mobile Access.
  • The ability to connect VPNs with the SonicWave secure wifi system, with specialized options for retail locations and the hospitality sector.

Many of these features require purchasing additional SonicWall products or licenses – which is worth bearing in mind. If you’re already a SonicWall customer for other reasons, adding the company’s VPN or Netextender will add extra functionality, but for those starting from scratch, the possibilities are more limited.

On a basic level, the actual SonicWall VPN offers solid SSL tunneling, AES encryption, and the option of adding forms of one-time passwords or 2-factor authentication if required.

Managers can toggle access to various applications as needed, creating groups for apps and projects. So the basics are there, as far as small and medium businesses are concerned.

SonicWall also offers sophisticated threat analysis via its SecurityCenter. This doesn’t provide much more than third-party antimalware scanners or security services but does integrate neatly with the VPN. So it’s a nice addition to have (but does add to cost, so it’s not essential).

Overall, the impression made by SonicWall is pretty strong. The encryption level is fine, authentication is slick and flexible, and everything slots together seamlessly.

Privacy features

Most providers of VPNs and security solutions for corporate clients choose to collect client data, but they aren’t always open about it.

SonicWall’s privacy policy has some concerning items. The company collects a vast array of personal information, ranging from addresses, IP data, URLs visited, and payment details, to geographical location. And it works with advertising companies to deliver cookies – more so than most VPN providers.

The company builds user profiles to deliver its services (and work with third parties), and adds the vague statement that it “may also supplement the information we collect with information obtained from other sources.” That’s a little worrying for privacy advocates.

Moreover, SonicWall is located in the USA, which can be a privacy concern in some cases.

So in terms of privacy, SonicWall isn’t ironclad by any means. It’s a commercial organization, selling data and applications. It’s important to keep that in mind.

Apps, installation, and deployment

The Global SonicWall VPN supports the following devices:

  • Windows 
  • Android 
  • iOS 
  • macOS
  • Amazon Kindle Fire
  • Chrome OS
  • Linux

In terms of user experience and features, SonicWall VPN is up there with competitors like Citrix or Cisco, and may beat them when sheer security features are considered.

Devices are protected via the Mobile Connect App. However, they can’t be used without SonicWall hardware, such as the Secure Mobile Access gateway, or the company’s various Firewall devices. So you can’t just install the controller app and then add Mobile Connect to as many devices as needed.

If users have an existing SonicWall network in place, setting up the Global VPN is very simple. It can usually be done via the Network settings of standard Windows operating systems, via smartphone app installations, or Linux downloads with superuser privileges.

Licenses can be purchased for anything from 1 device to bundles of over 1,000 devices, with steep discounts as you rise up the connection numbers scale. And extending a network can easily be achieved via additional licenses, or by opting for Netextender, which provides a very intuitive, flexible interface for managers to use.

However, one gripe that we did notice is that upgrading SonicWall isn’t as hassle-free as it really should be. Previously, users of versions before 4.9.22 had to uninstall their Global VPN entirely, before installing version 4.10. That’s an unforced error that most VPN providers try to avoid.

Plans and pricing

The SonicWall VPN licensing system should be familiar to most businesses. Customers will need to purchase a gateway license for as many users as they have to accommodate (and also have up to date licenses for their firewall devices). Licenses are available for both the Global VPN and the Netextender-based SSL VPN.

Prices vary, with license numbers including 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, or 1000 devices. The cheapest packages work out at $50 for one Global or SSL VPN connection, while 1,000 device licenses will cost $3,995 or $5,900 respectively.

Those prices are comparable to similar B2B VPN tech, and the per-device cost tails off noticeably as networks become larger. So if you need to create a 500-1,000 user secured network, either the Global VPN or the SSL VPN will be fairly cost-effective.

However, there’s a major qualifier to think about.

To run SonicWall VPN products, users need SonicWall hardware.

With firewalls retailing for $15,000-$25,000 in many cases, that raises the cost of implementation significantly.

There’s no free trial, either, which means that you’ll have to trust the instincts of network technicians. Limited software warranties do apply to the VPN, but there’s no formalized money-back guarantee should the applications fail to deliver.

Performance

While prices are flexible enough, speed is an area where we had more concerns. In the past, users have frequently complained about poor performance via SonicWall VPNs, especially the SSL variant.

In recent years, the company has addressed those issues, launching its Global VPN, and generally smartening up its server infrastructure, so performance has vastly improved. But it’s not the fastest VPN for businesses in the world, that’s indisputable.

Customer support

SonicWall does pretty well at helping clients, offering the following support options:

  • Video tutorials
  • A well-populated Knowledge Base
  • Specialist assistance from the company’s PSIRT security team
  • Separate telephone contact lines for technical issues and basic customer service queries

From our perspective, that’s a comprehensive range of contact options and resources, and it should help customers navigate the process of setting up SonicWall VPN licensing or adding devices to their networks. Sure, finding specific technical documentation could be problematic, but if you can’t find what you need, SonicWall’s support team should be on hand to assist.

Overall, SonicWall fares very well in the support department, offering diverse options that go beyond most competitors.

Bottom line

SonicWall is a major provider or firewall and security technology for businesses across the world and has been involved with the VPN sector for decades. Its current VPN offerings provide a flexible roster of options, either via IPSec clients or the Netextender application, provide strong security, and are easy to install.

On the downside, they require a major upfront investment, and speeds won’t be incredible, but overall SonicWall offers an appealing option for businesses that want to secure remote working practices.

Pros:

  • Excellent support
  • Solid encryption
  • Robust integration with antivirus and antimalware tools
  • Simple licensing process
  • Reasonable prices

Cons:

  • Concerning degree of information provided by SonicWall software to the company
  • Based in the USA, a 5 eyes country
  • Slow product updates
  • SonicWall VPN products require SonicWall hardware
  • Performance has been problematic in the past