WatchGuard Firebox Review

Provides us with more secure site-to-site VPN, remote access ACLs, and client-to-VPN


What is our primary use case?

We have four locations and at every one of them we use WatchGuard. We use them as firewalls and for UTM. They provide protection in terms of detection and prevention. And we also use them for site-to-site VPN, as well as for direct connect, VPN to AWS, and to AWS using VLAN tagging.

How has it helped my organization?

One of the main ways it has helped is that we use site-to-site VPN a lot, as well as remote access ACLs and client-to-VPN. Prior to WatchGuard, for example, we used to use Remote Desktop, which is not very secure, or RD Web, which is also not very secure. We installed the client VPN on everyone's remote computer and they can access our local area network. That is much better than using the other solutions. It's an improvement for the user and it's less risky for us. It gives us peace of mind that we're using the proper channels to access our network.

What is most valuable?

It's hard to pick one feature over another. But if I had to pick one, the UTM would be the most valuable because of the notification. I get notified via email if there is any type of threat detection or alert, telling me something is wrong.

For me personally, because I'm Cisco-Certified, it was very easy to take this over. I think it's a lot easier to work with because it's a GUI and not a CLI. I cannot speak for other users or other administrators, but it's pretty simple.

Based on our needs, the throughput is pretty solid. We haven't had any issues as far as the throughput is concerned. This particular box maxes out at 2 GBs and we only have 1 GB so we haven't had any latency.

I manage it using the System Manager, based on the firewall access control that I have. I've been able to manage it and use it without any problems.

What needs improvement?

Websense is an application that monitors and filters internet traffic. Websense was derived from WatchGuard. But when you go to WatchGuard to actually implement that particular feature, you have to use some type of additional feature and you have to pay for it, unfortunately. I think it should be free or free in the WatchGuard box itself, as an option. It would be nice if they didn't charge us for that.

And if they won't offer it for free, they should offer something better. It definitely needs a big improvement because it's very unfriendly. It's called Dimension Basic and there is a reason they call it basic, because it gives you very basic information. Let's say you want to track someone's internet activity or where they've been going. Websense gives you detailed information as far as the source. But this one only gives you very basic information and, on top of that, it's a free version for only a few months and then you have to pay for it. So not only is the version very basic but you still have to pay for it. That, in my opinion, has room for improvement.

Everything else that we have, the live security services and network discovery and all the spam blocking, threat protection, and the web blocker, is included.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using Firebox for as long as I can remember. I inherited this position close to 13 years ago and they'd been using it before that.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

For the most part, everything seems to be working without any issues. That's why we've had it for this long, close to 17 years for the company and, under me, for 13 years. There are more pros than cons.

We haven't had any issues. I always buy an additional box as a Hot Standby. I have never had to use it, and thank God for that. So it's been very stable. We keep them for a maximum of three to four years and then we upgrade to a newer one. For the time that we keep the box active, we don't have any issues.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

In terms of scalability, as far other features go, we're stuck with what we have on the physical appliance. For example, we had one that was set to 300 MBs for throughput and when we wanted to upgrade, we couldn't obviously use that same box. It wasn't really scalable. So we had to upgrade to a newer version.

We have four locations and approximately 400 users. We don't have any firm plans to increase usage. The owner of our company just acquired another company and that may make a difference. WatchGuard is the main component that we use. The subscription for all four of the WatchGuards that we currently have ends in 180 days. We're just going to upgrade to the newer version, if it's available. 

How are customer service and technical support?

There was an incident, back in the day, where I called for support and the guy sort of brushed me off. It was very uncomfortable but it could have been an isolated incident. I don't want to say that all the support engineers are the same. But this particular guy was either drunk or rude.

Other than that, it's been very smooth sailing for us, as far as support goes.

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

We have always been using Cisco. They decided that WatchGuard would be beneficial to keep because it's GUI and it's a lot easier to work with than other products, especially for junior admins.

How was the initial setup?

I set it up all the time and it's very straightforward. It's very easy to set up and very easy to migrate over to a newer version. It's really simple. I've only done a new deployment once. 

For upgrades, you save the configuration and you upload it to a new file, or you just open a new file and browse to the configuration file that you saved. It usually takes 10 minutes at the most.

But the first deployment, because it was obviously more involved, took a few hours. Setup included the site-to-site VPN, the client VPN, the actual interfaces, the static NATs, a lot of the firewall policy, the internet certificates, and the policy routing; the basic components of any router.

Deploying WatchGuard to distributed locations is mainly the same. Obviously, there are differences in the IP addressing and the network addresses. And you have to take care of the VPN connection between the two, to be able to communicate using the site-to-site VPN. There is also web blocking. We have certain policies for denying access to certain sites or certain applications. We don't allow, for example, weapons or sex or any of those kinds of solicitation sites. We then set the external and internal interfaces and then do the routing. In the some of those locations we use the WatchGuard as a DHCP server, so we set that up as well. The rest is all pre-configured.

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

We have had two-year deals in the past, but recently we decided to go with annual. The cost was somewhere in the vicinity of $2,000 to $3,000 for each one, depending on if they had a special at that time or if they were doing an in-place upgrade or with the same router.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

They figured if they were going to get something different then it would have to be something very user-friendly for the administrators, because I'm the only one who is certified to work on Cisco. We evaluated the Barracuda NextGen Firewall. We also looked into Juniper and the Meraki firewall, because all our switches are Meraki switches. 

But we decided to stay with the WatchGuard. The prices were a little bit better than Meraki and, since everything was pre-configured, to upgrade to a newer WatchGuard all we had to do was just save the config file and upload it to the new one, and that was the end of that.

What other advice do I have?

Educate yourself. Read documentation and watch videos online. Since the administrators are going to use it, they should educate themselves on WatchGuard. Keep a cheap, old box for training. I train my administrators on an older box and I give them a network to train on.

We have been attacked with ransomware in the past, and it was kind of disappointing because, when I talked to Cisco support they said that they recommended purchasing end-point protection with a ransomware interceptor, so we ended up getting Sophos. So alongside the WatchGuard, we have Sophos' ransomware interceptor and end-point protection. We use them, on top of the WatchGuard, as a secondary line of defense.

It has been smooth sailing as far as the product itself is concerned. That's why we keep renewing it. We either renew it or we upgrade to the newest version if they have a special. We also use it for Hot Standby. It's been good.

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

v12.3.1
**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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