WatchGuard Firebox Review

Enables us to control what kind of applications each staff member and department is able to access, but UI is not user-friendly

What is our primary use case?

The purpose is to enhance the application control and internet access control of our company in our office and factory.

How has it helped my organization?

Firebox provides our business with layered security. Before implementing the firewall, we didn't have any control over application access. Now, by using the Firebox, we can control each staff member and department and what kind of application they're able to access on the internet, especially with the popularity of cloud SaaS systems. It has really reduced the degree of risk in accessing those unauthorized, and potentially risky, destinations. WatchGuard provides a pre-built database that can protect against gambling domains, for example. But the accuracy of that database still needs to be improved because, in many cases, the categorization of the website is not exact.

It has also helped with productivity. It reduces the time our networking staff spends implementing things. It has saved about 20 percent of our time. We're also doing more control than before, so we have made some effort to configure the policies, which was something we'd never done before. Previously, we didn't have any control, so we didn't have to spend time configuring or troubleshooting application control policies.

What is most valuable?

There wasn't one particular valuable feature. What I like is that 

  • its pricing is competitive when compared with other brands, 
  • it has all-in-one features for intrusion detection
  • it has application control 
  • it has email control.

Also, the load balancing and failover features cost only 20 percent more than a single instance of Firebox. Those are the main reasons we chose it.

Because we use cloud applications like Office 365 and Salesforce, we don't want all our staff accessing the whole internet. We use the application control so that they are only able to access the company-authorized cloud applications.

Because we use the firewall to monitor the external traffic as well as the internal traffic, we bought a fairly large model, the M570. We turned on most of the features and the performance is comfortable. It can reach the throughput, the performance specified on the data sheet.

Also, because we bought two firewalls, which I know is not that many — not like in the retail industry where they have many firewalls in their retail stores — still, we need a central place to manage the policies and deploy them to both devices. It's good that it provides a system management console that is able to manipulate and manage policies in one place and deploy them to different locations.

What needs improvement?

The reporting features are not as flexible as I thought before I bought it. You can retrieve some simple statistics from the centralized reporting server. But let's say I want to look at the volume of internet access among our staff. There are no out-of-the-box reports or stats or any unit of measurement that show internet access for particular staff. There is no report that shows how long they're on or the volume of traffic, especially in a particular period. It's not necessary that it have very modern BI analytics, but at this point I'm a little bit disappointed with the reporting. One of the purposes of implementing the firewall was to do more application control and reduce the risk involved in employees accessing the internet. We want to measure and know how much time of our staff spends accessing and browsing and using internet resources.

For how long have I used the solution?

We bought WatchGuard Firebox last year and implemented it in our Hong Kong office and China-based factory. In the factory we have larger coverage and we use the M570. For our Hong Kong office we use the M370.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's stable. So far, there have been no incidents.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Our case is quite straightforward. We only use two nodes. We still need to expand to one or two more factory locations, as well as our office. We will scale out the same solution.

I do have previous experience in the retail industry. In that industry, where you need to implement many firewalls in multiple retail stores, I doubt the management tools of the Firebox would be able to scale out for that use case. But for our use case it's good.

How are customer service and technical support?

We haven't had any issues so we haven't contacted their technical support. It's been quite stable over the year since we implemented it.

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

There was no application control in our old solution and we wanted to reduce the risk of being attacked from outside. So we looked for a UTM model and the cost-benefit of the WatchGuard Firebox was one of the best.

I did a little bit marketing research locally and listened to recommendations from some partners in Hong Kong.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was quite straightforward. It's a typical UTM.

Our implementation took about two months.

In terms of our deployment strategy, we implemented one of the firewalls. We replaced our old firewall, enabling only the internet access and left the major email traffic access. Then we defined the control by defining more specific application policies. Once it was successful, we used the same method to deploy the other firewall to our China side.

We have one person who maintains the Fireboxes, but it's really less than one because he does other administration and is not only dedicated to firewall administration. We have about 100 people in the Hong Kong office and on the factory side there are 400.

What about the implementation team?

We had one internal staff member and an external consultant from BARO International for the deployment. Our experience with BARO was good. They understood our requirements and were able to translate them into an actual solution and deploy it.

What was our ROI?

We have seen ROI using WatchGuard.

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

We needed a firewall to control our internal network and the external access and we needed to implement load balancing and failover as well. Going with WatchGuard "increased" our budget.

WatchGuard had a very competitive price. It was only 10 to 20 percent more than a single instance device but with that extra cost it provided a second load balancing device and the licensing scheme didn't charge double. They only charge for one license, unlike other brands whose method of hardware and software licensing would have doubled our cost. That was a major consideration.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Juniper, Check Point, and one more that was the most expensive.

The usability of the Firebox is good. But the UI is not as user-friendly as the model that I had used before, which was from Check Point. The design of the Firebox UI is restricted and needs an experienced network guy to understand the format and settings. When I used the Check Point a few years ago, the UI usually guided me on how to define a policy from the source to the target, and what the objects were, and how to group objects, and everything could be seen from a simple, table-based web UI. 

The interface of the Firebox is clumsier. The settings are like a tree structure, and you need to drill down to each node in order to get to the property. It serves the same purposes, but I won't memorize all the settings. A more user-friendly user interface would reduce the number of things I need to memorize and guide me in configuring policies. It's quite good, but is not the best I have seen.

The other brands provide more professional features for reporting, the application control, and the scalability. But the strong point of WatchGuard is their all-in-one features that are suitable for our size of company and our budget.

What other advice do I have?

WatchGuard is not the best. We already knew that, but it comes with most of the features we need. Although it's not the most user-friendly, we sacrificed that to keep the core features to increase our control while maintaining our budget. Honestly, there are no particular features of the WatchGuard that impressed me to say, "I must choose a WatchGuard." But when I needed several things to come together, then I really had no choice.

I would rate WatchGuard Firebox at seven out of 10. It's good, it's better than a six, but from the management point of view, it has not totally satisfied my expectations so it's below an eight or nine.

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