Firewall v Firewall as a Service. What’s the difference?

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The need for cyber security has never been as high as it is today, for individuals as well as businesses. After all, in 2022 it’s estimated that global cybercrime will come with a potential cost of a quite staggering $7 trillion.

So it is essential that all IT systems, from the very smallest to the world’s largest include a firewall as a first line of defence. At its most basic, this is a piece of software that filters out dangerous or suspicious network traffic, traffic which may have malicious intentions and aim to compromise a system.

Traditionally, firewalls for business are designed and programmed to look at traffic entering specific offices and their IT networks. But Firewalls as a service, or FWaaS for short, operate in the cloud. In brief, this allows organisations to do away with their traditional firewalls which, in turn, simplifies their IT set-up while also enhancing the levels of security.

Because it is managed centrally it can ensure that every user and every device on the network can receive the same level of safety in a consistent way.

How FWaaS differs from traditional firewalls

As we have just seen, the traditional firewall is designed to be the gatekeeper for specific corporate premises. But, like all other “software as a service” applications, FWaaS is delivered via the cloud.

The former will always struggle to scale up or down and respond to the changing demands that a network may place on it. It will also be less easy to adapt it to meet the changing kinds of threats that may be out there.

By being cloud-based, firewall as a service for business is a far more effective tool for organisations when it comes to keeping data secure, conducting security audits of a network  and ensuring that the risk of safety breaches is minimised.

Today, an increasing number of organisations are starting to rely on cloud computing  services and new threats seem to arise almost weekly. So it’s no longer practical for firewalls to be simply located in data centres. It’s vital that they too live in the cloud and offer the flexibility and scalability that businesses need.

How the need for FWasS has arisen

The old order of IT systems meant that organisations had office or regional data centres where the software for their firewalls was stored. With the majority of workers being on site for most of the week it also meant this was a comparatively controllable IT environment. But with the trend for many applications to be stored in the cloud and the increasing popularity of remote working, the standard firewall has gradually become far less fit for purpose. After all, when the first firewalls started to be introduced, the cloud was still a long way off in the future.

But, as organisations come to rely more and more on cloud infrastructure for the practicality and scalability it offers, the need for security is still here. In fact, it’s not simply still there, it’s becoming greater than ever. This has been reflected not just in the business world but for individuals too, as highlighted by a number of headline-grabbing stories.

So it has became apparent that the architecture of traditional firewalls means that they fall far short of being able to support cloud applications and their increasingly demanding requirements.

So it makes perfect and logical sense that as more and more applications move to the cloud that firewalls should follow suit. In fact it’s essential that they do if they were going to be up to the job of protecting against modern cyber attacks.

How FWaaS work

FWaaS lets organisations create secure local protection for all applications and users wherever they are without the need to manage each one individually. The security capabilities, including a full Layer 7 firewall, are delivered as a cloud service that can expand as required as more and more users, devices and applications need to be protected.

Because FWaaS is controlled and managed from a single, centralised console, this means that every user and every device will receive exactly the same level of protection. What’s more, it will be identical whether they are working in the office, at home or in any other remote location with network access.

A few of the benefits of FWaaS

So far, we’ve discussed the more general features and advantages of using FWaaS so here are a few of the more practical benefits.

It’s a proxy-based architecture which automatically examines all network traffic for every user, device, application and location. So it can automatically spot malware that may be at risk of entering a system with potentially catastrophic consequences.

It offers a cloud-based intrusion prevention system which is always on whatever the type of connection or location. So it filters all activity, even the generally hard to inspect SSL traffic.

It gives DNS security and control which can prevent users from inadvertently reaching malicious sites. As it’s estimated that 95% of cyber security breaches are as a result of simple human error this is an essential line of defence.

It’s very cost effective as maintaining FWaaS requires minimal input from an IT department as well as eliminating the need for any extra investment in hardware.

So it all adds up to a fairly compelling argument for an organisation to switch from their traditional firewall to FWaaS. And, with cloud computing set to become even more vital in the future, this may be the perfect time to do it.