WatchGuard Firebox Review

I don't have to worry about malicious attacks or vulnerabilities in our facility

What is our primary use case?

We're a hospital and we use it for developing our incoming and outgoing policies, and we also use it for VPN.

How has it helped my organization?

It helps keep unwanted traffic from coming in, or traffic from going out that we don't want to see out there. If we have unwanted traffic coming in, traffic that we don't need as a facility, then we would be opening ourselves up to security problems and vulnerabilities. It helps because malicious attacks coming in are things I don't have to worry about. So far the WatchGuard has done a good job at blocking all that.

In terms of simplifying my job, the simplest device is one that you can put in place and not have to worry about it. That's the WatchGuard. It's there, it's working. I don't have problems with it so it's "out of sight, out of mind."

It also saves me time, by doing what it's supposed to do. I don't have to mitigate problems that it allowed through. I couldn't tell you how much time it has saved me. It really would depend on what kind of problems I might experience.

What is most valuable?

The policy monitoring and allowing different traffic flows are the most useful features for us; regulating which traffic comes in and out.

In terms of the throughput and performance, we don't have a problem or any bottleneck there. We downgraded the size of our appliance because we're a small facility, and what we had before was actually too big. The one we are now going with seems to be doing a great job.

The management feature is pretty nice.

What needs improvement?

I'm not really impressed with the reporting side of it. It may be something I just haven't figured out very well, but it's hard to filter down on reporting of the actual valuable information that you would want. There is a lot of information out there so you have to have some kind of tool capture it and then filter through it. So far, I haven't found the reporting side of the WatchGuard to be that user-friendly. I would definitely like to see better reporting tools from WatchGuard. That would be a very high priority for me.

Also, setting up the site-to-site VPN is pretty easy with the WatchGuard, but the client VPN setup is not very friendly. If you have a client-to-device VPN that you need to set up for a mobile user there are different protocols that they will accept but none of them are a plug-and-play type of option.

For how long have I used the solution?

The organization has had WatchGuard, different versions, for 12 years. I've used WatchGuard, myself, for about seven years. We got the Firebox approximately three years ago.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is great. I've not had any problems. In three years, we've had to restart the device maybe twice. We've had to restart it more than to clear out any cache, because you don't want anything building up in cache memory. But we've only had two problems where we needed to restart the device. And it actually restarts really fast. It doesn't have much downtime at all.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's used extensively. This is the only firewall we have in the facility, between the hospital, nursing home, and home health. It handles all the traffic that comes from all three campuses here. I don't see us expanding enough to worry about getting another device. This one seems to be doing exactly what it needs to do.

How are customer service and technical support?

I've only had to use their technical support twice in quite a few years, so it would be hard for me to rate. But they were responsive when I did have a problem. I haven't had any problems with support at all.

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

I moved here in 2013 and the company was using the WatchGuard at that point.

How was the initial setup?

With this newest device, the initial setup was pretty straightforward. We were able to copy the configuration from the old device. That's a good thing about it: the configuration file is able to transfer from an old device to a newer device and just continue going. It takes a long time to build up different traffic policies, and to make exceptions for different websites. If you had to do that every time you got a new device, that would be a problem. Luckily, with this, you're able to save your configuration file and transfer it to the new device.

The deployment of this new device took 30 minutes, at most. There are only three people in our IT department, but the deployment only required me to be involved. The other two guys are network technicians. All three of us can go in and modify policies or do whatever we need to do, but it generally doesn't take much maintenance.

I got on the phone with WatchGuard to make sure that everything would transfer over and they assured me that it would. And as far as the switching over to the new device goes, most of the planning required was just letting users know that the internet was going to go down for just a little while. We planned it for a period of slow usage here at the hospital where we could bring it all down, copy the config file, move it to the new device, put it in place, and swap the connections over. It came right up. We had to import the new key and got it activated. But other than that, everything worked.

What was our ROI?

ROI on this type of solution is a hard number to quantify. We've not had a problem so that in itself is a return on investment. If you don't have an issue how do you calculate what your return of investment would be? How do you quantify the peace of mind? But we've not had to spend a lot of time troubleshooting.

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

The pricing of WatchGuard is probably a little higher than the SonicWall, but it makes up for it in dependability. It's worth it to me, especially since it's not much higher. For just a little bit higher price you get the dependability of the firewall with the WatchGuard brand. 

And with this appliance you also get a certain number of VPN tunnels. With this one, it's something like 500, not that we would even use that many. Whereas with SonicWall, at the time we were using it, it came with 10 and then anything over that had to be purchased.

Money-wise, it's a one-and-done with the WatchGuard. With SonicWall, there were a few things that you had to pay extra for to get. 

The subscription services with the WatchGuard are pretty nice.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I used the SonicWall at another hospital in southwest Arkansas. 

WatchGuard has come quite a way, as far as the Fireware Web UI goes. The GUI application has become better, making it easier to navigate through setting up policies and setting up VPN tunnels, etc. SonicWall had been there quite a while longer than WatchGuard, in terms of being user-friendly. But I can't complain about the WatchGuard now. When I first moved here, it was very cumbersome to navigate through, but with the Web UI it's really improved.

They do have a client that you can connect to the WatchGuard if you want to use that client. It's still kind of clunky for navigating and I very seldom use it anymore. They call it the WatchGuard System Manager. It's not quite as friendly as the Web UI. It's usable, it's just not really friendly. But the Web UI is very well done.

What other advice do I have?

My advice would be go for it. We've not had any problem with it. We've been very pleased, especially with the newer WatchGuard we've put in place. It's very responsive. It works great. It may have a little bit of a curve on learning it, but once you learn it, it's hard to say you'd want to go back to something else.

It took me a little bit to get used to WatchGuard. I was familiar with SonicWall before I moved into this role. But now that I've used it for almost seven years, I've gotten to know it pretty well and it works great. Once you get used to what I would call the idiosyncrasies of WatchGuard, as opposed to the SonicWall, it's pretty easy to configure. Using the WatchGuard web UI also makes it a lot easier to configure.

It provides us with somewhat layered security. It is the firewall between us and the outside world. With our subscription we do have the Gateway AV, so it does watch for things of that nature. We have certain policies in place that help with the layered part of it. But it's just one of many layers. We have other things in place to help, but it's definitely something I wouldn't want to do without.

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

**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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