pfSense Review

Free to use with great plugins and good stability


What is our primary use case?

I primarily use the solution for monitoring and learning about how to operate a firewall. I also use it for monitoring my home network as well as adblocking.

What is most valuable?

The solution is 100% free to use.

The product offers a lot of helpful plugins.

The solution is easy to use and has a elaborate GUI.

The initial setup is quite simple and straightforward.

What needs improvement?

The integration of the plugins into the GUI could be better. It's sometimes hard to find where a setting can be found or how it might interact with other settings. Some documentation is outdate and plugins sometime have no documentation. Information can always be found on the fora but for novice users this can be a challenge.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been using the solution for five years or so. It's been a while.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is stable. Since last upgrade there hasn't been a crash, freeze or need for reboort. It's quite reliable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I've tried to scale the solution previously. I've got two hardware platforms running. I wasn't quite able to run everything I wanted on a small ARM based device. Therefore,  I build my own Super-micro platform based on Intel Denverton.

It's actually easy to scale. It's just moving over most of the configuration: exporting, importing, or even going right into the original XML export file.

There are six users, 3 dozen of devices and a homelab server with VM running behind the solution at this time.

How are customer service and technical support?

With what I am running now, I haven't had to reach out to technical support. However, an upgrade failed two years ago and I needed to contact technical support to get me the new image for the device. They were very efficient. I was satisfied with the level of support I received.

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

I've been switching back and forth between pfSense, OPNsense, and Untangle in the last five years or so.

OPNsense and Untangled are more integrated, however, more and more of the plugins are becoming paid offerings. OPNsense misses a plugin that pfSense has, Untangled it's adblocking is easy but not free.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is not to complex.

It's good to have the basic information before attempting to set everything up. They've got a wiki with all basic information and there are the fora for questions.

I've got a CCNA certificate and that some comes in handy. For me, it works without any documentation, however, for a complete novice user you probably need some documentation to get you through the process.

Getting everything up and running only took about 30 minutes. You then have a complete firewall solution up-and-running.

There is some maintenance required. You do need to check for updates from time to time, for example. If you install more plugins more maintenance might be required to get everything tuned.

What about the implementation team?

I handled the implementation myself. I have some knowledge about IP routing.

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

The solution is free to use. There are (currently) no licensing costs.

What other advice do I have?

I'm just a home lab user.

I'd advise those considering the solution for your business to get a service contract.

It works great for someone with enough knowledge and time to get his head around everything. Otherwise, you need to look for a solution that offers support and can work with you on issues. It's nice to try to balance between open-source and support that costs money.

In general, I'd rate the solution at an eight out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

2.5.0 CE and Netgate ADI (on ARM)
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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