pfSense Review

Excellent content protection, content inspection, and application level firewall features


What is our primary use case?

We are a solution provider and deploy this product for our customers. We also use it in our organization. We use both Cisco and pfSense but for our customers we mainly use Sophos and pfSense. I'm the CEO of our company. 

How has it helped my organization?

The solution has assisted us by preventing unwanted access. If the solution is configured properly, then you'll be protected to some degree, although you may also need other products. 

What is most valuable?

Content protection, content inspection, and the application level firewall are all good features. 

What needs improvement?

There's always room for improvement. In general terms, for someone who is not familiar with the product I think ease of use could be improved. When you're connecting, the interface is very difficult for an inexperienced user in the sense of setting everything up, as it all has to be set manually. I've also found that the more features you use influences performance and the drop can be drastic when you use advanced features. I want to achieve a certain level of security and at the same time maintain good performance.

The solution is feature rich enough, but one of the things usually outside the UTM system or gateway system is SIEM. It's an advanced system for managing the possibilities and it would be nice to have a kind of interface in the UTM, to enable connectivity with most SIEM systems.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

pfSense is rated as one of the good solutions in it's field and stability is good. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The solution is scalable to a degree but we never use it for big companies. We use it for mid-range companies. Our company has a data center and we have companies that are hooked to our data center. We're doing this on-premise for our customers so if the customer has an on-prem information system, we will implement the firewall and UTM at their location. We have plans to increase use because we have good feedback for the product and we have good experience with it. So we are increasing use of pfSense. Actually we are moving away from Sophos and more towards pfSense.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is well organized. Most of it is in-house, but in the case there's also a we have access to a second level if necessary. 

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

We were one of the first companies here making UTMs (before they were known as UTMs). We were the first partner of Cobalt, the first appliance creator. When Cobalt was bought from Sun, we made our first network defender line. It was the first appliance that had a firewall, content inspection, constant protection, intrusion prevention, intrusion detection, antivirus, and mail and web server in one box. Our line was mainly distributed all over the Middle East, Asia, and some parts of Europe. We expanded and worked with companies such as Palo Alto, Cisco, Sophos and pfSense. In some areas pfSense is better than Sophos which didn't make the advances they should have. They now have XG, so they have two totally different products in the same area which is one of the reasons I prefer pfSense.

How was the initial setup?

If you carry out a straightforward setup, then you will have straightforward, basic protection, nothing else. It's more complex if you want other things included. We usually start with some research, carry out a basic setup and make the initial monitoring. From there we make additions based on the results of the complete monitoring. Then it's ongoing monitoring all the time and setting or adjusting to the situation.

What was our ROI?

For any compnay, ROI can be seen even if they look at the basic possibility of a crypto virus or the like. The savings on that would be at least two days of lost work and the cost would be more than the cost of the whole system plus maintenance. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Licensing costs depend on company size. pfSense is an open source solution, so there's a charge for support. We offer a first line of support and a second line if required. Payment depends on the contract, because usually it's only covers the firewall. We offer a contract for the network which includes UTM. There's a hardware cost for HP servers and, again, depending on the size of the company, installation cost is about 500-800 Euro. There's an annual maintenance fee included in the networking agreement. 

What other advice do I have?

I recommend this product, it's well-balanced, has a longer history than other solutions so it's not lacking in maturity. There is a lot of online support available via YouTube or blogs but professional support is available if required. I highly recommend taking the support because usually people look at the UTM as something which should be set up in the system and left, but that's not the case with these devices. I strongly suggest making an external agreement with a specialized company to deal with security. Users need to have decent protection, not just protection.

I would rate this solution a nine out of 10. 

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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