WatchGuard Firebox Review

Easily understood and managed and it's simple to do network diagnostics

What is our primary use case?

We really don't use the firewall too much, we use it more as a VPN. We've got several different networks that we're joining through WatchGuard.

How has it helped my organization?

It has made firewall configuration really simple. It doesn't take years of training or certificates to go in and manage it. That's a big deal. We set up our firewall, operating as a VPN. It's bringing several networks together and it made that process easy.

In terms of my job, it's taken so little of my attention. I have worked with Cisco firewalls and they were complex. WatchGuard is easily understood and managed. It's easy to watch traffic go through the network, to look for ports that are closed or open, and to see what's actually moving through the network and what's not. It has made it easy to understand network traffic.

The learning curve is very small in comparison to the Cisco firewall. Within two hours, I was managing WatchGuard, whereas with Cisco it might have taken a month to accomplish that same level of proficiency. As far as the control of traffic is concerned, I spend one or two hours a week on WatchGuard, as compared to about eight hours with the Cisco firewall. It has freed up my time to do other things.

What is most valuable?

What I like most is the analytical side. It's pretty simple to understand when you want to do any diagnostics on your network. If you want to go in and see what packages are having trouble getting through, what's being held, stalled, etc., it's very easy to use in that way.

In terms of the usability overall, it's pretty simple but, at the same time, it's pretty full-featured in terms of what it can do. We only use part of it, only because that's where we're at right now. But for a small network, for a small organization, especially, it's a complete solution to your firewall needs. It's relatively simple for me to get into and to work with when I need to; if I need to set up an ARP table or to create different reports. For a smaller network with lesser-trained IT people - if they're lucky, they've got one IT guy trying to do it all - it's an excellent size. Whether you've got a few machines or several hundred, it's pretty simple.

What needs improvement?

One of the things that is always valuable is workshops. It's really hard to get away and do webinars, but what I would like is a selection of webinars. I see WatchGuard comes forward with a webinar where they're going to introduce this or that. I'd like to see a lot more of those and a lot shorter.

On I can just point to a video to show me something I need to know how to do; for example, how to merge contacts in Outlook. But it is a ten-minute video. I would like to see more of that kind of learning. I'm sure WatchGuard has got all these videos, has got the webinars and the training sessions. But when I need to know something, I need to be able to get to it quickly. I want an indexed learning system very close to what might use. I also want to be able to put questions forward either in a "frequently-asked-questions" forum or by sending them up to the support team for quick reply. 

I want to be able to go to a portal and put in my problem and have WatchGuard bounce back to me with, "Well, this is how we can do it," or "We don't have a solution for that." And then I can go to other vendors to look for a solution.

The more targeted learning system I can have, the better. If I have to schedule a webinar that might take 30 minutes, there's a good chance I'll miss it. I sign up for webinars and it happens that I'm not available because I've got other fires going. The learning has to be there almost at my whim: "I've got a fire burning, I've got to figure out how to put it out. I need a ten-minute video to show me." Those learning sessions have to be available and easily found, when I need them. I have so little control over my schedule on a daily basis, and I'm sure I'm like many others.

One other shortcoming is that there is no backup for it. We really haven't figured out how we might solve that problem. We may want to put a duplicate in. With Cisco, it's not uncommon to have dual firewalls with something our size. That way, if one were to fail, we've always got the other. With WatchGuard, we just have the one box. If that were to fail, we'd probably be really hurting.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using it for about 14 or 15 months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I haven't had to look at it in nine months. It just works pretty painlessly. It's very stable. It's kind of invisible.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We haven't hit a limit. We have the wireless running through it, a camera system running through it. There are 50 workstations running through it, as well as servers. I don't have any problems with it whatsoever. 

How are customer service and technical support?

Tech support is everything for any product. WatchGuard's technical support is up there at eight or nine out of ten. That's really what you're looking for in a product; more than the product itself, it's that support. If it's not there, you can just frustrate yourself to death on solutions. WatchGuard is support is easily available and know what they are talking about.

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

We were looking for a solution. The engineer that I had knew of WatchGuard and thought it was probably a good idea, and that was the whole strategy. He had worked with it before and he was the lead engineer when we implemented it. He was right about WatchGuard, it is a good product.

We were using Ciscos. They were aged and out of date. They were pretty well done. Our options were to get new Ciscos and get them configured. Of course the deployment and hardware were expensive. And the maintenance or the management, in the long run, was much more expensive.

With the WatchGuard, the initial hardware was less expensive. And the implementation, because it didn't require as much training, was much less expensive. And the management is much less. When I say "much less," I'm talking about 25 percent of the cost of what the similar Cisco would be.

How was the initial setup?

I remember it being somewhat complicated. There were some complications we ran into; it didn't seem to be quite as easy as what we'd hoped. We did have really good support though, from WatchGuard, on the other end, assisting with the setup. That made all the difference in the world. That made it pretty painless. That was the key. 

When you're configuring a new piece of hardware, there's always some little switch that you miss or that just doesn't make sense. When you've got that support on the other end they know exactly where to go... WatchGuard had that.

At first, we were running into some issues configuring it to meet our needs. It was throwing us for a loop for a while. The issue was setting up the correct rules. But from the time we got that done, it just sits there and runs. We've had it 15 months and I haven't seen it in nine months. We got it configured and set up, and it just operates. 

We had it running on the first day, literally within hours. We had a lot of configuration to be done over the next six months, twists here and there. But as far as actually being able to set it up and have a firewall in place, that was done within two or three hours.

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

There are no costs in addition to the standard licensing fees. It was pretty much, "Get the license and you're good to go for the year."

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at Cisco in addition to WatchGuard. We didn't look at anything else.

What other advice do I have?

I wouldn't hesitate to implement this solution. Particularly if you're down to an IT staff of one, this is a really good solution. If you're that small and your IT staff is very limited, then you're probably lacking the onsite expertise to move to a more expensive solution anyway. I would strongly recommend it.

We've got three people who sign in to WatchGuard, me and two others. Beyond that, everybody else is just an end-user. I'm the only full-time IT person we have on staff. We do have a vendor that we use for a lot of our engineering solutions and design. They spend about 12 hours a week on our network.

As for increasing our usage of it, I don't know what all its capabilities are. I deal with problems all the time and I have to come up with solutions for them. I don't foresee any expanded use of WatchGuard. However, it may be that it can solve some of my problems much more simply than some of the other solutions I'm thinking about. But I don't really know how it could at this point, so I'm not seeing us using more of it than we are now.

I would give WatchGuard a ten out of ten. It's simple, easily managed, and it has good tech support compared to other products out there. Because it is a full-functioning firewall, it does everything with full support. You're not buying a cheaper quality of firewall at all. It's full quality, fully functional and has good support.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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