Product review: Blue Coat SG Client shortens WAN waits for mobile users
Blue Coat's WAN-accelerating software client combines solid overall performance gains with excellent reporting, good central management, and a nice price; CIFS file transfers benefit the most, while FTP gets little help
Blue Coat is addressing this limitation in the next release of SG Client, due this spring. (Watch for our follow-up review when the new release ships.) GZip compression is applied across all traffic types to help squeeze data down to further reduce traffic, but in the case of my FTP test (an ISO disk image), there wasn't much room for compression.
Admins centrally define and manage multiple client installations from the Client Manager interface in an SG appliance. Defining an optimization policy requires very few steps. Admins simply list the port numbers they want SG Client to optimize (or ignore, as the case may be) and whether they want to enable CIFS acceleration. The SG management console creates MSI and EXE files suitable for distribution to each remote PC. The installation package contains all of the necessary information to tell the client PC which SG appliance to connect to and which traffic to accelerate.
The SG management console also provides a wealth of statistical information on traffic from all connected SG appliances and SG Clients. I easily viewed traffic based on time period or protocol. The statistical and reporting engine is one of Blue Coat's strong suits, and I like how easy it was to slice and dice the information many different ways. One hitch: There is no way to filter out specific connections for analysis.
The SG Client itself provides nice real-time performance graphs, and it allows users to view the performance increase as well as enable/disable the client and clear the disk cache. Users can also see connection status and exactly which traffic is being optimized -- very cool.
Overall, SG Client is a solid first step toward providing mobile and branch office users with a way to participate in faster WAN access to corporate resources. Although it didn't set any performance records, and FTP optimizations await the next release, SG Client didn't disappoint when working with CIFS traffic. Blue Coat's excellent reporting and central management will make life easier for busy WAN admins. Finally, considering the affordability of Blue Coat's appliances and the fact that the SG Client is free, the Blue Coat solution promises to be easier on the budget than many competing solutions.