I needed to replace my router/firewall recently (my old Symantec Firewall Appliance was behaving erratically and regularly killing connections, and reinstalling the firmware did not help). I looked at multiple options, and ended up selecting a SonicWALL device.
My initial experience with SonicWALL was rather pathetic. I filled in an online form to have an appropriate partner get back to me, and to this day (a month later) no one has responded. I also sent an e-mail message to the posted sales e-mail address, and that message has also yet to be responded to. Finally, I called and spoke to a sales rep who answered my questions, and gave me completely incorrect information (I had a couple of very specific requirements that he told me were doable, neither of which really were).
But, despite my obvious misgivings, I bought the device anyway. The initial experience was superb – the setup wizard starts up automatically and it establishes defaults that will generally be all you need to be online safely. The software is highly responsive and incredibly intuitive, I’ve yet to have to refer to help or docs for anything (even for more complex tasks like setting up firewall rules). I also upgraded the firmware to the Enhanced OS (which provides greater control, particularly in the firewall) and the process sets the bar for how firmware updates should work: upload the new firmware via a form in the web admin console, a list of all available firmware options is then displayed, just click on the one to boot with, the device resets, and in a minute or so you are done and back up and running. (Contrast that to the Symantec device, or the HotBrick I used previously, or others – this process is nothing short of perfect).
Of course, it was at this point that I discovered that the sales rep had given me incorrect information (I am not accusing him of lying, I just think that the second I mentioned firewall rules tied to MAC addresses and wildcard host names he was out of his depth). I left a message for support on the online forum, and received timely, detailed, thorough, and accurate responses. Unfortunately, the responses verified that I was correct, and that the device could not do what I wanted, but at least I had an authoritative answer.
I called back, and spoke to a regional rep who put me in touch with a sales engineer who absolutely got it. He understood exactly what I wanted, offered me workarounds (none of which were ideal), suggested that I replace the device with the next model up so as to have access to additional firmware options (which I did), and then told me that the two features I needed were in the next version of the firmware that is currently in beta. He offered me the firmware, which installed as painlessly as previously mentioned, and has since sent me updated beta versions as they become available. The beta firmware itself has proven to be rock solid, and the primary enhancements are indeed exactly the features I was looking for.
The bottom line is that, despite a rather unsatisfactory initial sales experience, SonicWALL gets it. The devices (I’ve now tried two, the initial one that I returned, and the newer replacement) just work, the feature set is thorough and well thought out, the software is responsive and the best I have seen in any device, the add-on services (security, content-filtering, and more) are simple to activate and administer (although not as tightly integrated with core functionality as they should be), applying updates is nothing short of perfect, and the technical help is second to none.
If you are in the market for a firewall device, I’d strongly suggest that you seriously consider a SonicWALL.