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Why Comodo still rules the free Firewall roost

What is the best free firewall? Long ago, “ZoneAlarm” was the answer. A year or so ago, the answer was simply “Comodo”. Recently, though, the surge of “Online Armor Personal Firewall” (made by Tall Emu) has generated a lot of interest and commendation.

Which is better? Well, the reviews around the internet are in half a mind. Some call it in favour of Comodo 3, others support Online Armor 2.

Just a few days back, the public beta of Online Armor 3 was revealed. The list of features includes, most importantly, support for Windows Vista (which Comodo had already provided for a long time). Apart from the basic “protection” upgrades, it also includes MAC filtering and options for easy setup on known-to-be-clean computers.

Fact is, both firewalls have very good protection (both inbound, as I know from plain experience in my university LAN environment, and outbound, as tested by matousec). I do not know if the two companies are competing in any manner, but the situation should spur development in both hemispheres.

In the paid domain, Agnitum’s Outpost Firewall has been top dog for so long, I have forgotten when it was ever not. But I am not sure if Online Armor deserves the tag of ‘challenger’ in the free domain. Why?

Paid vs. Free versions

Firstly, Online Armor’s stratagem of reserving the best technology and features for the paid version means that the free version is a bit mangled. This begins to be evident even in a superficial glance at the matousec ratings: the paid version is about 10% ahead of the free version. The comparison chart on Tall Emu’s Online Armor website shows just how many features are lacking in the free version, with some of even the essential features being “limited” or non existent.

By comparison, Comodo free firewall (v3) is rich enough to compete even with the commercial paid firewalls. Its own paid brother adds only “antivirus suite-like” features (which are not really necessary if you have a good anti-malware software like NOD32 or Kaspersky Antivirus).

Features and Power of Comodo

Had that been all, I would remain impartial. But that is not all. Comodo’s Host Intrusion Prevention is second to none. The Training mode is absolutely excellent. The advanced setting interface allows a level of customized security eons ahead of Online Armor. Comodo’s protection is a notch above Online Armor Free.

The Armor’s Stronghold

But Online Armor is not all lag up. Its simplicity is quite surely the star feature: it is, perhaps, the one firewall that even the novice can use in comfort. It also integrates well into the OS it works with (v2 in XP only: v3 Beta does not yet meld with the Vista Security Center)

Is Online Armor catching up?

In some aspects, Online Armor Free is catching up to Comodo. Like I said earlier, v3 of Online Armor free is adding Vista support. It also provides automatic updates (like Comodo of yore). There are some other noticeable upgrades too.

Finally…

I have attempted to use Comodo 3, Online Armor Free 2 and 3 (Beta). But it is painfully obvious that even the upgrades to Online Armor do not dent the Comodo dragon’s primary claims to roost-dom. In terms of sheer power, flexibility and crack-proofing, Comodo out does Online Armor Free. The Armor, however, is ready to wear and fits like, well, an armored glove.

The novice may find Online Armor simple and easy, but anyone requiring more flex must test the Comodo Firewall.

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