Compact home firewall

In 2010, I began searching for a security solution for my employer. One of the options I found was Endian. After noticing that they have a free community edition, I decided to put a spare eMachine to work on my home network to try it out. Once I set it up and finished configuring it, I concluded that here was no reason to shut it down, and I have left it running ever since.

Why the change?

My wife and I recently discussed plans for the office space that the firewall resides in to double as a guest room. Part of the redesign includes moving all existing networking equipment, including the firewall, to some wall-mounted shelves.

The new room design called for a new firewall, and the replacement had some requirements:

  1. Compact: It needed to be small enough to fit on a wall-mounted shelf.
  2. Quiet: It needed to be quiet enough to run 24/7 without disturbing guests.
  3. Low Heat: It could not generate enough heat to change room temperature.

Pieces to the puzzle

After exploring a few options, I decided to use the following hardware:

Hardware Components

At the time of purchase, the total cost was about $280.

In action

After putting it all together and installing Endian Community, how did it measure up?

Compact

The case measures in at 7.3″ x 8.7″ x 2.8″. The footprint is small enough to sit beside the modem and router on a wall-mounted shelf.

Quiet

The solid state drive has no moving parts, so it does not create any noise. The case comes with an optional fan, but I have not yet needed it. The motherboard only needs the CPU heat-sink to keep it cool, so the firewall is virtually silent.

Low Heat

Computers generate lots of heat when they have high powered processors doing many calculations. The Intel Atom N455 processor draws about 6.5 watts of power, the OCZ SSD pulls in about 2 watts, and the power supply provides a maximum of 60 watts. The low power usage has kept the heat only noticeable by touching the case, and the room temperature consistently matches the rest of the house.

Mission accomplished!

We now see that a mini ITX motherboard using an Intel Atom processor along with a SSD provides a small, quiet, and cool solution. A mid-size tower was turned into a compact and energy efficient home firewall appliance!

A shot of the old firewall next to the new…

Before and After

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Compact home firewall

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