OK. Here goes.
First, a Model 1200/2 -- Purchased roughly 2 years ago. Approximately a week after it was purchased, I noticed that the CPU Usage was constantly between 95% and 98%. It's a simple network with less than 20 computers; no web servers or email servers; no incoming connections whatsoever. This is a dual WAN port firewall connected to a T1 on WAN1.
Technical Support said that it was just a display issue and did not affect the functionality of the unit. It would be fixed in a future firmware release.
Approximately 8 months later (while still waiting for that firmware release), we had a minor issue with the T1 line and a DSL line was added as a backup. This works fine so long as both Internet connections are functioning normally. However, when the DSL line was experiencing problems, I went into the setup of the firewall and disabled the WAN2 connection until the problem could be resolved. Well, this doesn't work very well. If there is a WAN2 configuration (enabled or disabled), at least 1% of the outgoing traffic will attempt to go through that port. The result is many dropped connections waiting for a response from the WAN2 port and no response is forthcoming.
Technical Support: Let me put it this way. I'll let you know when I hear from them, which will probably be about the same time that the updated firmware for this unit is released. That's right; still waiting.
Second, a Model 600/2 -- Purchased roughly a year ago. Died within three months. Apparently purchased near the end of the product life because when I tried to get warranty service, I was told that we don't sell those anymore. They replaced it with the LB-2 AND a SoHo 401. Like an idiot, I took the replacements after being told that the LB-2 had "the same capabilities" as the 600/2. While this might technically be true, the apparent manufacturing quality of the LB-2 compared to the 600/2 is like comparing a Yugo (remember those) with a Hummer. It just has that feel that if you even turn it upside down, something might come loose.
At any rate, after getting the LB-2 configured and running properly, everything ran fine for 2-3 months. Then, one morning, I find 42 e-mail messages in my Inbox from this firewall sent approximately 3 minutes apart stating that the firewall was rebooting. The problem started and stopped on its own. This network is a different client with only 10 computers and NO ONE works at night.
Technical Support response: This unit will reboot when you make certain administrative changes. When I explained that no one was making any administrative changes, their response was "Well, somebody was. Check the log file." No one was in the office and no one logged into the Administrative Console of this device. No evidence of anything unusual except for the sudden appearance of 42 e-mail messages when I had received NONE before.
The problem went away and I was tired of the 24-48 hour delay for feedback from Technical Support, so I forgot about it and moved on. Then, this client wanted to have a VPN connection. OK. The 600/2 was a VPN/firewall and the LB-2 is a VPN/firewall. No problem. I thought I would do it the easy way and I purchased the Hotbrick VPN Client software. This was the wrong thing to do. After fighting with this for three days with no success, I submitted a help request via their website. Four days later (with no response to my previous request), I submitted a request for a refund as per their 30-day Money Back Guarantee and 100% Satisfaction Guarantee shown on their website. Two days later (with still no response to either of the previous requests), I sent an e-mail message to several e-mail addresses at their site and finally received a polite response informing me that problems with their website had caused "minor" issues. He also stated "I called you but you were not home. The privacy director on your phone system did not give me an option for leaving you a voice, this is why I am writing you via email." According to my Caller ID, NO other phone calls were received from Hotbrick and NO voice mail messages were ever received.
Since I had a job to do and I was not getting information from Hotbrick, I removed the LB-2 and replaced it with a USR 8200. With the USR 8200, I was able to make the VPN connection without incident and without the use of the Hotbrick VPN Client software. I informed him of same; told him I didn't think that ignoring my help requests for a week was a "minor" issue and that since they did not respond, I had to take other steps to complete the project. Under those circumstances, please issue a refund.
Four days later, I received a message back with an RMA# and was told that he would contact me when the refund was issued. Coincidentally, the next day, I went online to check the credit card and what do I find? Fraudulent charges are now appearing on my credit card; a credit card that had not been used in four months. When I called the vendor making the charge on my card to investigate, I was told that the purchaser had ALL of my information and that the purchased items were to be shipped to an address in Indonesia. He gladly reversed the charges and no harm done. I cancelled the card and had a new card issued. I realize that this is circumstantial and the theft could have come from another site, but I don't think so. I may be wrong, but I'm not taking that chance.
I, again, received the RMA# in another e-mail message 2-1/2 weeks later when I asked for the status.
Another 3 weeks passed with multiple e-mail messages back and forth and multiple voice mail messages left with them before I had the pleasure of speaking with the owner of the company who informed me of the following:
- He denied this refund "a long time ago" even though an RMA# had been sent to me a full 3 weeks AFTER the initial request.
- The 30-day Money Back Guarantee and 100% Satisfaction Guarantee do not apply to software. A fact that I apparently agreed to when I completed the online purchase.
- "I checked the log file and I could see that you used the software." Perhaps, he meant that he could tell that I had downloaded the software rather than that there is some monitoring device built into the software. I don't know and since I don't use their software nor do I ever plan to use their software, I don't really care.
- He, personally, was standing next to the Technical Support representative when he left ?several? voice mail messages on my machine.
- And, he also stated "I am from California, so I have excellent Customer Service skills." I don't know what it means either. I always thought California was The Golden State. Did Arnold change their slogan? California -- The Customer Service State. I don't know; it just doesn't have the same ring to it. Maybe its just me.
We ended our pleasant conversation with him beginning to show his paranoia. Apparently, my phone sounded weird at his end and he asked if I was on VoIP. I said No. He said "Oh, I'm on a speakerphone then." I said "No. Its
7:30 PM and I'm watching a basketball game in my living room. Why the hell would I have you on speakerphone?" I swear to God, he started to ramble something about witnesses and I said goodbye. A $72 piece of software and I'm going to have his phone call witnessed? For what, so I can waste more of my time to end up on Judge Judy?
It is absolutely possible that the guarantees do not apply to software and it is absolutely possible that this fact is in the legal mumbo jumbo I agreed to when I made the purchase. A fact that I willfully acknowledged when I was told. This fact and this fact alone would have put an end to the matter 4 weeks earlier had someone just made that known. I have purchased other software that cannot be returned; I understand that. Tell me that right from the start and it would have been over. But, I'm not from California, so what do I know?
So, that's the story. At least the highlights. Their equipment, for the most part, appears to do what it claims. Known problems may or may not ever be fixed. Either the LB-2 VPN capabilities are lacking or their instructions are lacking, or both, but I had NO problems with the VPN once I removed the LB-2 and installed the USR 8200, so it isn't that I have no clue how to deal with a VPN. If you purchase Hotbrick, I would strongly recommend purchasing from somewhere other than their "secure" website as I have good reason to believe that it may not be all that secure.
I wouldn't purchase from them again, period. But, that's just my opinion.