WatchGuard Firebox Review

Allows me to schedule rebooting of the wireless accent points on a regular basis, making it set-and-forget

What is our primary use case?

We have multiple sites. We're in the wine business. Our corporate office is where we have accounting and marketing. Our executives are based there as is IT, HR, and payroll. That's where we have the big M200. We have five wineries that we support. Each of the wineries has a WatchGuard on it and we connect them with the business office VPN. 

We share files across our VPN and we also authenticate our users. Not all of our sites have file servers so we use the business office VPN to get them authenticated onto their machines. We also use that to go out and work on their machines if they have problems or we send files out to them and install software remotely, etc.

We also have 11 tasting rooms where we sell our wine, and each of those has a smaller WatchGuard in it. We support the computers that they use in the back office of the tasting rooms. We also support their iPads and the machines that they use to print off orders and FedEx labels and to do inventory stuff. 

We have two hospitality sites where we will take our distributors to talk to them and educate them about the wine industry and what we're doing in the industry. We provide them with internet while they're there. Some of our people will go to these sites to do retreats and planning. We have WatchGuards there to support them so they can get back to the files they need and get authenticated.

We're using a whole variety of models. We've got a couple of M200s, multiple 30s and multiple 15s. We also have about 15 of the AP120s.

How has it helped my organization?

The solution simplifies traffic management. It has features that let me automatically reboot the wireless access points on a weekly basis. For us, that has been really beneficial. Prior to that we had a range of different wireless access points and there was no way to have them all reboot. So people would just have bad experiences using them and we'd have to go in manually and reboot them. Once we started using the WatchGuard wireless access points, we just scheduled them to reboot automatically. 

Both the throughput and the fact that they support the two different radio frequencies have been great for us. It has paid for itself because we don't have to deal with them anymore. They're a set-it-and-forget-it type of deal.

The solution has saved me time, but it would be hard to come up with a specific amount of time. The bottom line is that I just don't have to deal with it.

What is most valuable?

  • Among the most valuable features is the ease of use — love the interface — of both the web interface and of the WatchGuard System Manager.
  • It's a stable platform. The devices are pretty rock-solid.
  • Education: They do host regular webinars where I can go in and learn more about the product and new features.

Also, the throughput is good value for the money. Our corporate office is basically shut down [due to COVID-19]. We've got 100 people who have been working from home over the last month and we're using the SSL VPN connection to get in, get authenticated, to get to our files, update passwords, etc. The throughput has been good for that.

I'm impressed with the solution's reporting and management features.

What needs improvement?

If they could make the traffic monitoring easier that would be great. I don't use it that frequently, but I would like to see some improvements in the ease of use of that component, so it makes more sense. I know it's a technical component so there's going to be some difficulty trying to make that easier.

Also, if they could provide more examples in their documentation, that would help. Sometimes they will say, "Hey, go in and set this up," and it would be so much easier to do it if they put in a couple of examples and showed me. Imagine instructions on how to change a tire and the steps you go through. Give me some pictures or some examples of how you change the tire. Where do you put the jack so it doesn't tear up the fender on your car? I'm a person who loves looking at examples cause I can look at things and see how they applied them and then learn from them.

Even if they put in some snapshots and said, "Here's how this should look after you put this information in," that would help. It would be confirmation that this is accurate and this is going to work. 

Finally, when we did the split tunneling, as it turned out, that was an all-or-nothing, global setting. As soon as I did that it impacted everybody. What I was hoping to do was to set that up so that I could do a pilot group and, once it was working, I could turn it on for everybody. We needed to get it going and it was all-or-nothing. We did that on a weekend and it ate up my weekend time.

For how long have I used the solution?

In my current position, I have been using WatchGuard Firebox since 2016. Prior to that, I was at another place and I used a WatchGuard for about 12 years.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The scalability is fine but we're not experiencing a whole lot of people using it. Our Seattle office is probably the one where it is used the most and the M200 is fine. Our corporate office has close to 70 or 80 people. And we're spread out nationwide, with people getting back into the corporate office to get files. We have our wineries where there are another 40 people or so. Some of them are smaller and would have 12 or 15 people. And the tasting rooms are typically three people.

We opened up two new tasting rooms in the last year and we've got two more that are going to be opening up and, in my requirements, I always put in WatchGuard.

How are customer service and technical support?

For everything that I've dealt with, their technical support has been really great about helping out and helping me fix things. I just worked two weeks on a project to split our VPN tunnels out and the WatchGuard technical support guys helped me with that a couple of times.

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

WatchGuard was already installed here when I came onboard and that was one of the reasons I got hired. I'd had experience with WatchGuard before and I knew about the product and I could support it. They brought me in for that. And now, over the last four years, I've gone through and upgraded the hardware. The hardware was older hardware, it was out of date, so I went through an upgrade and got it back on a maintenance plan.

In working with our WatchGuard vendor, they're the ones who emphasized that we should be getting off of Remote Desktop Protocol from Microsoft because it was being hacked so badly. They're the ones who said that WatchGuard has this SSL VPN and it's free, so they just configured it and away we went.

How was the initial setup?

For me, the setup is straightforward. Part of that is that I've just done it so frequently. On average, deployment of these devices takes me about 15 or 20 minutes. I know what I've done on other machines, so I just do the same thing again on new ones.

For deploying them to distributed locations, we order from our vendor. When it arrives I get it authorized on our account, go in and set up some basics, and set it up so I can get to it remotely. Then I ship it off. I've got some hands-on people, operations people, at the winery who will take it and start to plug it when they get it.

For maintenance of the solution there are three of us on the IT team.

What was our ROI?

The fact that they're reliable pieces of equipment is part of the ROI. I know when I go back into it, it's not like it's going to drop how it's been programmed. 

It also has a great function for my needs because I work remotely to many other places in Idaho, Eastern Washington, New Mexico, etc. I know I can get into that box remotely and it's going to have the configuration that I set up.

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

I'd love it to be cheaper, but as long as long as they're being fair with me, it's a good value.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I've never had a need to evaluate other options.

What other advice do I have?

Take a good hard look at it. The interface is pretty easy to work with. The devices are consistently good. It has a lot of features and the boxes are hard-working. They just work.

I recommend WatchGuard to people when I'm at industry trade shows when anybody asks me. I think it does provide me with layered security, but I don't spend a lot of time looking into that. It's just part of my total solution package. The value that I get out of it is consistent management. It's a good product. Whatever kind of additional security they provide to me is just a bonus.

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