Firewall as a Service: Everything you need to know

The ongoing pandemic has left a huge impact on the contemporary IT world. COVID started accelerating the technological shift and forced several companies to adopt remote working cultures while leveraging cloud computing and subscription-based service models for business and operational continuity. The rise of as-a-service (XaaS) paradigms in the IT world have enabled organizations to use data, infrastructure, platform, service, software, or any other resource with ease to meet business objectives. This is allowing small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and other organizations with limited resources to scale as per their business needs. Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) is one such paradigm that provides companies with cloud-based network traffic inspection capabilities to protect them from malicious or unauthorized access to the network. 

Firewall as a Service 

As the name suggests, Firewall as a Service refers to an on-demand cloud-based firewall service that serves organizations just like a typical on-premises firewall service. However, like with every cloud-based service, FWaaS is capable of scaling instantaneously to suit the expanding network and needs. Firewalls were originally developed to protect organizational networks. However, as companies started moving their infrastructure, applications, and data to the cloud, traditional firewalls are now transitioning into a service that is delivered as part of a company’s cloud infrastructure.

FWaaS allows organizations to eliminate the need for multiple on-premises deployed firewall appliances. It simplifies the IT infrastructure through an easy-to manage-centralized console system. And like every cloud service, FWaaS can be adapted according to the size, need, configurations, demand, and tailor-made security as needed by the organizations. 

How does it work

Much like any traditional firewall service, FWaaS is also meant to filter network traffic to add a layer of security and safeguard organizations from both internal and external threats. FWaaS can provide services like domain rules, web and URL filtering, logging, identity management, intrusion prevention, and several other traditional firewall applications. FWaaS is provisioned between an organizational network and the internet. As external traffic from the internet tries to enter the organizational data, it acts as a gateway that inspects and filters the traffic to predict any form of threats. FWaaS can also perform Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to inspect the data in the network packets being transmitted.  

FWaaS takes the functionality of a next-generation firewall (NGFW) and moves it from an on-premises physical appliance to the cloud. This decoupling of security functionality from physical infrastructure enables organizations to securely connect offices and remote workforce to the modern corporate network.

The rise of FWaaS

FWaaS allows companies to leverage the cloud-based approach to define and enforce a network boundary by inspecting and filtering both the incoming and outgoing organizational network traffic. It also enables organizations to partially or fully move their security inspection to a cloud infrastructure. With growing cyberattacks and various malware crippling enterprise network security, several SMBs and even larger organizations are struggling to keep up with the cyber trends. With FWaaS, companies can offset the maintenance of their hardware infrastructure and firewall solution to a cloud provider that provides updated, top-of-the-line security solutions.

FWaaS offers several benefits and addresses the limitations of traditional firewalls. With the ongoing pandemic, global businesses have started adopting a remote work culture, resulting in geographically-scattered network traffic. A traditional appliance-based firewall can only inspect and monitor the network traffic that passes through it, making it difficult to protect remote users from the cloud. On the other hand, FWaaS is a cloud-deployed solution that can protect network connections coming from practically anywhere in the world—whether it is a branch office or a remote location. FWaaS is also highly scalable which makes it a better fit for many burgeoning companies. 

Advantages of FWaaS

Easy configuration

Unlike traditional firewall configuration, FWaaS or cloud-based firewalls are very simple to configure in modular ways to do specific jobs. Configuring FWaaS for individual remote employees and office setups can also be easily configured through a cloud-based system.

Protecting remote workers

As mentioned earlier, a major difference between FWaaS and traditional firewall systems is the former’s ability to secure the network traffic from remote locations. This has been a major reason for the rise of FWaaS. It allows remote users to connect using business VPNs or even a Network as a Service to provide security services when using the internet or accessing an organization’s resources. 

Easy infrastructure

Just like any other cloud service, FWaaS also inherits the ease of infrastructure management, where IT teams do not have to deal with the overhead of complex on-premises network and security equipment management.

Scalability and security

FWaaS is a cloud-based service handled, managed, and distributed by well-known vendors. They can help growing organizations scale their FWaaS based on their additional security and service needs. These vendors also release regular updates and patch their services to prevent cyberattacks. 

Better visibility and control

FWaaS can unify network traffic from various networks and geographical locations across a simple architecture. They can provide IT teams with a single dashboard to handle and manage the whole organizational firewall security and setup. It also allows them to enforce new network regulations and policies with ease. 

The downsides

Since FWaaS are still relatively new and expanding rapidly, a major downside for any organization is that this service can be pricey. The overtime costs associated with FWaaS are usually higher than traditional on-premises equipment. And since FWaaS is a cloud-based solution, it is highly dependent on the network connection for it to function. Any amount of latency or the downtime of a cloud service provider can cause serious impacts to the businesses. 

Currently, there are several FWaaS vendors across the security spectrum. While major cloud infrastructure vendors such as AWS, Google, and Microsoft all provide firewall capabilities for their environments, traditional firewall vendors such as Cisco, Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet, and Zscaler have started providing FWaaS solutions as well.

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