What Is Firewall as a Service? Cloud-Based Firewalls Explained

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Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) is a network security solution that protects networks from a centralized, cloud-based location.

Modern enterprises have offices distributed worldwide, and successfully managing these networks with so many dispersed and fluctuating endpoints is next to impossible with a traditional firewall. An FWaaS functions as a perimeter-bound firewall but is hosted in the cloud for more scalability, visibility, and simplified management. Choosing a FWaaS solution allows businesses to customize it per their network’s unique demands.

Because of its ease of use and numerous benefits, many enterprises now prefer FWaaS solutions. Not surprisingly, the global FWaaS market is expected to reach USD 8.28 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 25.40%, with the “public cloud” accounting for the maximum share.

This article will explain how FWaaS works, key features, and what organizations might stand to gain — or lose — from implementing one on their networks.

How Firewall as a Service works

In FWaaS, just like any other as-a-service offering, third-party vendors host extensive firewall deployments in cloud environments. To ensure security, each customer receives a firewall instance that is different from other instances. Users can access the instances allotted to them via a centralized firewall panel and configure the firewall. 

Configuring and activating a FWaaS from the user’s end takes place within minutes. Customers can set their own rules on the administrative panel, such as allowing or blocking specific IP addresses, protocols, and ports.

The company’s router is connected to the FWaaS vendor’s cloud infrastructure. Once that is done, internet traffic is routed through the provider instead of the user’s system.

When the FWaaS receives internet traffic, it checks the data packets for outgoing and incoming addresses, port numbers, packet headers, and payload content. Based on the configuration rules, the FWaaS decides whether traffic will be allowed to pass through or not.

It also logs and records network traffic for future analysis. Companies can access these logs on the monitoring dashboard.

In addition, the FWaaS vendor conducts routine security audits and applies patches and fixes to ensure the firewall is well-equipped to deal with any cyber threat.

Key features of FWaaS

The key features you should look for when choosing a FWaaS provider include:

  • Sandbox server
  • Advanced threat protection capabilities
  • Email/URL filtering
  • Intrusion prevention system (IPS)
  • Domain name system (DNS) protection
  • Application control
  • Instant scaling
  • Log reporting
  • DDoS protection

Why do organizations need FWaaS?

As cloud computing comes to the forefront and virtualization becomes the norm, it has become evident that perimeter security is simply not enough to protect the network. Traditional perimeter-based security has limitations and blind spots that make monitoring digital infrastructure difficult. This can leave a system vulnerable to attacks and data breaches.

Additionally, with users located in various places, keeping track of all the devices and endpoints can be challenging. This creates opportunities for potential threats to go unnoticed.

Further, traditional perimeter-based firewalls focus more on protecting the network from external threats (north-south traffic). As a result, they rarely pay attention to internal or east-west traffic, which is equally vulnerable. No doubt, physical firewalls can implement segmentation policies, but they’re not agile enough to work in dynamic environments.

FWaaS offers a strong defense for cloud applications. Access can be controlled through a central panel, giving IT teams complete visibility and enabling granular access controls. This ensures the protection of sensitive data and applications.

Benefits of Firewall as a Service

Benefits of FWaaS over traditional firewalls include their comparatively easy setup and management, unified security policy, and scalability.

Easy to set up

Installing a traditional firewall is time-consuming and involves a lot of personnel and resources. IT teams must not only ensure the firewall is properly secured but also perform maintenance duties.

In comparison, setting up a FWaaS is straightforward and hassle-free. Simply notify your service provider, and they will handle the installation of the firewall and the configuration of the required application controls.

Simplified management

Using traditional firewalls means you have to regularly patch or update the software whenever a new security development occurs. Since FWaaS is a managed service, you no longer have to worry about provisioning or deploying new security tools. The provider is responsible for maintaining the network tools necessary to protect your organization.

Unified security policy

With FWaaS, you can seamlessly secure your company’s network resources, whether they are onsite or stored remotely. This powerful tool enables you to manage everything from one location, ensuring comprehensive protection for your valuable assets.

Centralized policy management

Using centralized policy management, security operation center (SOC) teams can view all network traffic and monitor it round-the-clock from a single pane of glass. Real-time threat visibility allows for immediate action, increasing system efficiency.

Easy to scale

In-house firewalls come with several challenges. For one, you have to hire extra staff to manage your infrastructure, which can be expensive and laborious. Again, if you plan to increase the size of your equipment, you will need to purchase costly hardware that will become unnecessary when you downsize. In contrast, you can scale up or down your FWaaS cloud firewall without investing much.

Limitations of FWaaS

Although there are so many benefits to FWaaS, organizations need to be aware of certain limitations they might face when adopting a FWaaS solution, including potential latency issues, privacy concerns, and vendor lock-in.

Network latency concerns

Many businesses prefer in-house firewalls, as it is believed that using FWaaS may cause latency problems and slow down the network. This can be especially true for applications that require low latency. These issues are being mitigated by advanced network technologies like 5G, but they are worth looking into beforehand by assessing your network strength, required bandwidth for the FWaaS, and third-party review sites.

Privacy concerns

Businesses with mission-critical data might be hesitant to hand over their network’s security to an external third party. At the very least you should carefully review any agreements you sign to ensure you know exactly what data you may be sharing and what it might be used for.

Vendor lock-in

Similar to other as-a-service options, vendor lock-in is possible when choosing an FWaaS solution. Without a dependable exit strategy, it might be tough to switch providers if things don’t go as planned. Make sure you carefully weigh your options and choose a service that aligns with your organizational goals.

Top use cases for FWaaS

The current primary use cases for FWaaS involve protecting your network, migrating your data, and securing remote access.

Protect your network from malicious traffic

With FWaaS, your cloud assets are protected 24/7, and you can access the internet securely at all times. Before permitting traffic to enter your networks, FWaaS thoroughly examines data packets, enabling it to determine whether traffic should be allowed to pass through or not.

FWaaS also uses application control to apply granular policies like authentication, multifactor authentication (MFA), and validity checks on data to prevent malicious traffic from accessing the network.

Safe data migration

Your data is most vulnerable when it’s on its way to the cloud. To protect it, you can use FWaaS. This allows you to apply fine-grained controls and do microsegmentation, ensuring that your valuable data is effectively safeguarded during transit to the cloud.

Securing remote access

Remote workers frequently use virtual private networks (VPNs) to access corporate data centers. But now, with most applications in the cloud, it doesn’t make sense for customers to connect to the data center to access the cloud. Instead, they can do so by directly connecting to an FWaaS. FWaaS offers advanced threat detection capabilities to monitor and filter traffic for malicious activity without backhauling all that traffic to the data center.

FWaaS vs. NGFW

While it’s easy to confuse FWaaS with next-generation firewalls (NGFWs), there are some basic differences between them.

NGFWs are highly sophisticated firewalls equipped with advanced capabilities such as IPS, deep packet inspection (DPI), and threat intelligence feeds. On the other hand, FWaaS is not actually a firewall itself but a software solution that operates in the cloud and provides firewalls “as-a-service.”

Securing every aspect of a network, including remote devices, can be costly and complicated when using an NGFW. However, by utilizing an FWaaS solution, organizations can outsource the software’s management, configuration, and updates to the vendor by selecting a subscription service.

Unlike some NGFWs, FWaaS can natively perform SSL inspection without needing additional software.

FWaaS simplifies duplicating security designs across multiple sites compared to NGFWs. It turns out to be more cost-effective as it removes the requirement of individually setting up NGFWs at each location.

Bottom line: Using FWaaS in your organization

Having an efficient firewall system should be a part of every company’s network strategy. However, with company offices located worldwide and remote work becoming popular, maintaining an in-house firewall system will only partially protect company assets.

A smart solution is to opt for FWaaS, which offers protection against a wide range of advanced cyberthreats while freeing up time spent on managing an in-house firewall. By utilizing the latest technologies, FWaaS enables enterprises to stay safe in today’s complex security landscape.

We selected the best software-based firewalls available to protect your organization’s network.

Susnigdha Tripathy
Susnigdha Tripathy
Susnigdha Tripathy is a full-time writer and editor based in Singapore, and a regular contributor to Enterprise Networking Planet. She has over 10 years of experience writing, editing, and delivering exceptional content for a variety of international technology brands such as Virtasant, a cloud technology company, and Krista Software, a provider of intelligent automation solutions. She has also appeared in ServerWatch and other industry publications.

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