Fortinet FortiGate Review

A reliable and consistent solution that allows us to manage the entire network from one interface and supports on-premises and cloud deployments

What is our primary use case?

We are a managed services company, and we are also a partner with Fortinet and Cisco Meraki. The firmware that I just started using is 6.4.4. Most of the FortiGates that I sell are 60E and 60F. For some of our larger customers, I have got a handful of FortiGate 80, 100, and 200.

Fundamentally, its primary purpose is security at the edge of the network. I have got some clients who are starting to use the SD-WAN feature for a multi-location setup. I have got other clients who are using a lot of IPSec tunnels. I also have some clients who, with the increase in remote workers, are taking advantage of the FortiClient product that ties in. They are using that for remote VPN connections. 

How has it helped my organization?

We are a managed services provider, and I would say that it has improved the way our client's organization functions. I would also hope that it is seamless for them. They don't even know it. The biggest improvement for us is that it allows us to do more with a smaller staff.

What is most valuable?

One of the nice things about FortiGate is that it can be deployed on the cloud or on-premises. You can actually do both. That's the biggest reason why I stick with this solution as opposed to something like Cisco Meraki. Another nice thing is that I can log directly into a FortiGate or get to it through their FortiCloud access products. They're pretty reliable and consistent.

One of the reasons why I started using the product was their single pane of management. I can deploy their line of firewalls in conjunction with their switching and access points, and I can manage the entire network from one interface. I don't have to log into one interface for the firewall, another one for the access points, and another one for the switches. These firewalls have access point controller functionality built right into the system, so I don't even have to purchase additional devices to manage them.

What needs improvement?

FortiLink is the interface on the firewall that allows you to extend switch management across all of your switches in the network. The problem with it is that you can't use multiple interfaces unless you set them up in a lag. Only then you can run them. So, it forces you to use a core type of switch to propagate that management out to the rest of the switches, and then it is running the case at 200. It leaves you with 18 ports on the firewall because it is also a layer-three router that could also be used as a switch, but as soon as you do that, you can't really use them. They could do a little bit more clean up in the way the stacking interface works.

Some use cases and the documentation on the FortiLink checking interface are a little outdated. I can find stuff on version 5 or more, but it is hard to find information on some of the newer firmware.

The biggest thing I would like to see is some improvement in the switch management feature. I would like to be able to relegate some of the ports, which are on the firewall itself, to act as a switch to take advantage of those ports. Some of these firewalls have clarity ports on them. If I can use those, it would mean that I need to buy two less switches, which saves time. I get why they don't, but I would still like to see it because it would save a little bit of space in the server rack.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution since 2007.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

If you have the firmware version 6.4.3 and are using FortiLink in VLAN, it has trouble with tunneling networks for a wireless network. It won't give it a route to the internet. I found it just last week. There was a version back in 6.2 where it required 12 characters for the password of a wireless network on Web 2.0 as opposed to the traditional eight characters. The problem came when you wanted to edit it. If you upgraded to that firmware from a previous version, it wouldn't let you save any changes without changing the password, making it a requirement. That was kind of problematic for a while, but for the most part, it has been pretty stable and responsive.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is easy to scale as long as you start with the right firewall. Our clients are of different sizes. We have clients with the home office with two or three employees. One of the clients has about 26 locations in all four time zones and about 400 employees.

How are customer service and technical support?

I haven't used their official tech support, which is actually a good thing. The reason I haven't used their official tech support is that they have a support mechanism in place. I have direct access to a local sales engineer, and when I have problems, I call him up on the cell phone. Based on that, they definitely support their partners 100%. They are definitely channel driven, and it shows.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have deployed SonicWall, WatchGuard, Cisco ASA, Rockies, and Palo Alto. The biggest reason I went with Fortinet is that it felt like it has got Palo Alto type of functionality at a much more reasonable price point.

I spent seven years working at the state level education, and budgets were tough. We had SonicWall subscription services. I could replace them with the brand new FortiGate with a three-year subscription for the same cost. That really changed things. The single pane of management that they have was just the frosting on the cake.

How was the initial setup?

It is pretty simple. For example, I just set up a new network with a 100E, and I have got four stackable switches. It will run a network with 23 access points. I set up all the VLANs, routing, rules, and other things. It won't take more than four hours of work. I am getting ready to box up and ship it out. It will be plug and play once it gets to the site.

What other advice do I have?

Take the training. They've got free training that is available online, and there are different levels for technical training. It is crucial. If you sign up as a partner, which doesn't cost you anything, the training is free. If you want to go for the test and get certified, you got to pay for the test, but the actual training materials are available to every partner for free. I would say that definitely take advantage of those. When you have new employees as network engineers, make this training a part of the routine.

I would rate Fortinet FortiGate an eight out of ten. I have been using it for years, and I do try to evaluate it on a regular basis and continue to stick with them. I just don't have a lot of bad things to say about them. Aside from their product, I'm a also fan of their company and how they do business, which makes it easier to do business with them. I don't necessarily appreciate the business practices of some of their competitors. It is nice not to have to worry about that.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud
**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
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