Can I do this on ISA Server? No, but you can with TMG

Many companies are starting to budget for the second half of calendar year 2010, some companies actually start the fiscal year 2011 now in July, regardless of which scenario are you in the fact of the matter is that during this time of the year many companies are getting ready to overcome currently challenges, re-evaluate the current technologies in place and analyze migration options across the core platforms. In recently conversations that I had with ISA Server admins I notice that there are some common scenarios where ISA Server capabilities are limiting the company to achieve their business goal. The good thing is that TMG can indeed help on that.

On this post I will enumerate the top 5 scenarios where TMG can overcome ISA limitations in order to achieve the desired goal.

Scenario 1 - Consolidation and Dynamic Control

image “Currently I have ISA Server 2006 that works pretty well on my company, but as our business is growing and the IT people in my team are shirking I would like centralize many things on the perimeter in order to facilitate the administration. For inbound scenario my main problem is E-Mail, it will be cool if I could have one single server to manage firewall policies as well as Exchange spam filtering capabilities. For outbound scenario I would like to have more control over the sites that my users can access in a dynamic manner, I’m can’t keep up with all suspicious site and add them to my Block List, which is a URL Set that I created. There is anything on ISA that can help me with that?”


image No, ISA can’t help too much here. However, with TMG you can integrate Forefront Protection for Exchange, Exchange Edge and TMG itself in a single box. The combination of those products will allows you to implement the E-Mail Protection feature and manage all the policies in single location, which is TMG console. For your outbound challenge, TMG can indeed help here. You can use URL Filtering capability that uses MRS in order to dynamically categorize URLs that your users will access. Yes, this is the end of your endless attempt to keep up will all sites on the URL Set.


Scenario 2 – Protection against Malware

image “Recently we got hit by a malware, it was pretty bad but we were able to contain the damage and cure all affected machines. After that we started a post mortem analysis to understand how this happened since all corp net workstations have anti virus, sadly we found the breach. Our guest network was not enforcing that guest computers have antivirus and I remember why we disabled that enforcement there, it was a political decision. The problem is that I have no idea if the user brought the malware or got this malware while browsing Internet through our proxy. We now need to be able to have a type of protection on the edge that can block attempts to download malicious content and help to protect unmanaged workstations that have no antivrus. Not sure if ISA can do that, please advise.”



  imageNo, ISA cannot do that. This is actually a very strong point on TMG Malware Inspection feature. With this feature enabled you can keep up the latest signature, regardless of the client workstation state (managed or unmanaged). If TMG detects an attempt to download a file that is infected, TMG will try to clean this file and if it can’t clean it will block the access to it (according to administrator's choice). The user name, file name, threat and URL will be stored on the TMG logging and you can quickly identify who attempted to download the infected file and the site that the user was trying to download it from. Yeah, I know, it’s awesome.


Scenario 3  – Keep up with the updates

image “My currently ISA deployment it’s is using the 3-Leg template, I have some servers on the DMZ. Those servers are highly utilized and I’m having hard time to keep up them updated based on the monthly patch Tuesday Microsoft update cycle. The whole change request process to install new updates on the server plus the request to restart the server can take up to two weeks, in order words: my servers that live on the DMZ can be out of date for up to two weeks. In a recently internal auditing process the auditors saw that breach and we need to come up with a solution where we can mitigate that without reduce the two weeks gap that we have to apply security patches. Can ISA help us on that?”



image ISA will not be able to help you to achieve this goal but TMG will. With TMG Network Inspection System you can mitigate known Microsoft vulnerabilities from being exploited via a traffic that cross TMG networks. NIS will grab the updates from Microsoft Update Service and will inspect all traffic that cross TMG, since your servers are on DMZ, NIS will evaluate traffic that are going to the DMZ (or coming from the DMZ) and verify if that traffic matches with any NIS signature, if it does and the action is set up to block, TMG will block the traffic and trigger an alert so you can easily identify a potential exploitation attempt. Now this is cool, isn’t it?


Scenario 4 – Controlling Remote Users 

image “We just migrate all of our domain to Windows Server 2008 and we are now implementing NAP. Since our VPN solution is based on ISA Server 2006 I would like to integrate NAP with ISA 2006, can I do that? Also, we want to allow user to connect to our VPN via SSTP. Does ISA supports SSTP?”



imageISA does not integrate with NAP neither offer built in SSTP capabilities, good thing is that TMG does both. With TMG you will take advantage of Windows Server 2008 x64 bits platform which is much more robust and will be able to natively integrate with NAP via TMG Console. On top of that, TMG will also be able to help you to enable users to connect via VPN using SSTP protocol since this feature comes built in with the product. “Two birds with with single stone”, this is what I’m talking about.


Scenario 5 – We can’t stop 

image “Our company is growing in a fast pace, which is great, but we are becoming more and more dependent on the Internet. Recently we had an outage on our Internet connectivity with our ISP because our border router broke and we had to replace it. This replacement took two hours, it was a chaos in our company without Internet connectivity. Since this day my manager is under pressure to implement a backup plan so we have fault tolerance Internet connectivity in case the main connectivity with our ISP goes down again. I want to use ISA 2006 for that, but I’m not sure how. Any clue on how to do that?”



image ISA Server 2006 doesn’t offer a built in ISP Redundancy capability that can assist you on that, but TMG does. With the new ISP Redundancy capability on TMG you can have two paths to the Internet that can be used as fail over mechanism or load balancing mechanism. This will allow you to achieve your goal and be up and running with Internet connectivity in a matter of seconds if your main ISP goes down. You’re welcome.

These are only 5 of many other scenarios that TMG can assist you to overcome the challenges that your company might be facing to keep up the business running in a secure manner. If you have ISA Server 2006, 2004 or even the almost dead ISA 2000 (extend support finishes April 2011) you should be planning your TMG migration and I will remember you again: chapter 6 of the TMG Book is your friend for that.