Prisma Access by Palo Alto Networks Review

Good VPN access with great security and good scalability

What is our primary use case?

One of the main advantages we have found of Prisma Access is that it has gateways across multiple continents. Due to that, many users can connect from different parts of the world will be able to access everything very fast. Also, internet access through VPN has become much simpler in getting the traffic to our on-prem data center.

How has it helped my organization?

The main example is my particular client that has employees working from different parts of the world - Malaysia, Singapore, India, Europe, and even the Middle East. The use of multiple continental gateways has helped us a lot. The users who are working in different parts of India can connect to different gateways. There are four gateways, including in India itself, the Middle East, and Europe as well.

What is most valuable?

The WildFire Analysis is one of the good features we observed. Due to the fact that the traffic from the user to the internet is not passing under our on-prem, there is generally less control over it. With the help of WildFire Analysis, we are able to make sure the users are not downloading or accessing any malicious sites or any malware or anything.

The use of Microsoft Teams from a VPN used to give some issues earlier, however, with the Prisma Cloud, that has improved quite a lot. Even if you're tunneling the traffic of MS Teams through this Prisma terminal, there has been no issues yet. The VPN access it allows for is great.

The stability of the solution is very good.

The scalability of the solution is excellent.

What needs improvement?

Our security team had a concern that they are not able to filter out a few things. There is some particular traffic that the security team wants to filter out and apply their own policies and they cannot. Earlier, we used our on-prem solution for that, however, when it is in the cloud, the problem is that it has to be done manually. When we do changes on the on-prem, it will not automatically sync to the cloud. Therefore, manually, the admin has to do changes on the on-prem for spam filtering and at the same time on the cloud as well.

We actually faced some a problem with using the failure of authentication. Our primary authentication happens through a RADIUS server, to a non-IP solution, so that there is a double-factor authentication. In that double-factor authentication, we are using three different RADIUS servers. Apart from that our requirement was that if all our RADIUS servers failed, we wanted the authentication of users to fall back to LDAR.

The problem we faced is that each RADIUS server was consuming 40 seconds each for the timeout, and then only will it go to LDAR. However, the total timeout of the global product timeout, we are not able to adjust. If you take an on-prem Palo Alto device, you can adjust or increase the Global Protect time out value from 30 seconds to up to 125 seconds or 150 seconds. Later, we were able to resolve this by reducing the timeout value for each RADIUS server.

Technical support could be a lot better.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have deployed the Prisma solution and environment almost six months ago and we have been using it for the last six months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The solution is very stable. It doesn't have bugs and glitches. It doesn't crash or freeze.

So far, we haven't observed any such issues. We have been closely monitoring for the last six months but there have been no issues with latency or anything. The only thing we are worried about is that what if something goes from the cloud if the cloud set up as an issue. So far, we haven't encountered such an issue yet, however, the client is always worried about that point as all these things are happening externally to our own firm. That said, so far it hasn't given any trouble.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability-wise it's a very good solution as we will be able to increase the number of users or decrease the number of users or even the bandwidth. Scalability-wise it's a perfect solution.

This solution is used by little over 8,000 users in our intranet and the user roles span from high-level management up to the contacts and their employees who are supporting the calls and the suppliers for the telecom. It is being used by a lot of different variety of users, management, IT, admin, business users, call center users, everyone.

When we decode, we decode it for 10,000 users. So far, we haven't increased it yet. In the future, if our number of user accounts increases or if the Work from Home situation due to COVID continues, then maybe our client will think about increasing it.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support for this solution is via one of our third-party vendors. One problem is that the third-party vendor is not able to resolve all the issues. They will have to go to Palo Alto technical support via their exclusive support. One problem is ASP. Palo Alto is taking a lot of time for coming online and supporting that could be for a minor issue or a major issue. The time taken by Palo Alto Support to get online and support us has been a pain area. We're not really that satisfied.

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

Before Prisma, we were using the Palo Alto on-prem solution, Global Protect Solution. We had Palo Alto firewalls in our on-prem which we were using for VPN and before that, we used a few VPN solutions.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was a mix of difficult and straightforward. We did the deployment in phases for users across different continents. By the time we finished the deployment, which took nearly six months, it was in our case a stable solution and simple to use as well. However, it took a while as we were working on different continents and moving from one to the other in a particular order.

The team was a combination. The team was a combination of one of the vendors in Malaysia and my team, who's from a client end. So there was a total of seven members in the team.

Our implementation strategy was as follows: we already had one Palo Alto Global Protect Retail Solution, so it was not big trouble for us to migrate it to a cloud. We started implementing, planning the redundancy for such two different sites. We established the IP set terminals with our two different sites, which will terminate from the cloud to Palo Alto VPN Box on our on-prem. Then, we gradually migrated the users from on-prem to the cloud.

In terms of maintenance, first of all, we have to keep on monitoring it. If there is something wrong with the cloud, we will have to get the alert and act accordingly. Maintenance-wise so far we have increased the bandwidth for internet links. At that time we had set up redundancy and there was no trouble with that. Apart from that, so far, no other maintenance has been done.

What about the implementation team?

We had a vendor assist us a bit during the implementation.

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

I can't speak to the licensing costs. We had a two-year license, which we are still on.

What other advice do I have?

We're just customers and end-users.

We are using a SaaS version of the solution.

I will definitely recommend implementing this product as it has a very good scalable solution. Considering this work from home scenario in COVID, it is one of the best solutions one can implement. However, my advice would be to make sure you have enough internet bandwidth while implementing and also make sure there is site-level redundancy at your end. If you are a client then you won't implement it. Make sure there are two separate IP set terminals published from the client to your end. That way, if something goes wrong, your internet goes down or something, the VPN will be accessible.

One good lesson I have learned is that earlier in my thought process related to VPN was very narrow. I never thought that you can put it across multiple continental gateways and allow users to access it so fast. 

I'd rate the solution nine out of ten.

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