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How to Choose a Next-Generation Firewall?

Organizations interested in implementing an NGFW strategy should carefully pick the product that best fits their security and commercial needs. They should approach this in the same way that they would any other technology selection process, by talking with a number of suppliers and consultants. Here is some practical advice to assist businesses to choose the best NGFW for their environment

Next-generation firewalls are network security systems that are either hardware or software-based that can identify and stop complex threats that traditional firewall solutions cannot.

While all NGFWs provide a wide range of protection features that are widespread in point products - such as traditional firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), wireless management systems, quality of service (QoS), and application control systems - there are frequently important differences between what is available from specific NGFW offerings. Some manufacturers, for instance, provide unified threat management packages distinct from NGFWs for small to medium-sized enterprises, whilst others include UTM functions in their NGFW foundation offerings.

This article presents six firewall selection criteria to consider, as well as questions to ask when comparing and contrasting these IT security products during the procurement process, to guide readers to get started on this process and guide them in making the best NGFW buying choices for their specific environments.

  1. Manageability

  2. Performance

  3. Platform Type

  4. Price

  5. Support

  6. Feature Set

    How to Choose a Next-Generation Firewall?

Figure 1. How to Choose a Next-Generation Firewall?

1. Manageability

These criteria addresses system configuration needs as well as management console usability. IT managers must consider the administrators who will utilize these systems on a regular basis. What management features are available with each product? Is it feasible to do real-time analytics? Are the NGFW's unique application monitoring and control functionalities meeting business and technical requirements?

System configuration updates and the management console's user interface should have three critical characteristics.

  1. They should be comprehensive in the sense that they cover an array of features that eliminate the need for augmentation by other point platforms.
  2. They should be extensible in the sense that they can exclude features that are not required in the enterprise environment.
  3. They should be accessible in the sense that the management console, individual feature dashboards, and reporting are intuitive and incisive.

2. Performance

The NGFW will inevitably be a bottleneck in a business network, and performance difficulties will swiftly spread through systems and applications. Do the products under consideration have high-performance processing capabilities? Do they rely on software or specially designed high-performance integrated circuits? Do they make use of multithreading or asynchronous parallelism? Is the vendor in favor of using clustering to improve performance and resiliency?

Deep Packet Inspection has a considerable performance cost in standard proxy-based firewalls. Furthermore, there are various constraints in terms of the protocols, ports, and file sizes that may be inspected. A real Next-Generation Firewall must be capable of performing Deep Packet Inspection at wire speeds across all ports and protocols. Furthermore, it must be able to scale up to today's 10 GbE networks. This includes not just having 10 GbE ports on the firewall but also being able to support 10 GbE throughput rates with full DPI enabled.

3. Platform Type

For clarity, it could be a good idea to define the word "platform" at this point. Technopedia describes a technology-related platform as:

"a group of technologies that are used as a base upon which other applications, processes or technologies are developed. The platform in personal computing refers to the hardware (computer) and software (operating system) that allow programs to operate."

The majority of next-generation firewalls are hardware-based (appliances), software-based (downloadable), or cloud-based (SaaS). Hardware-based NGFWs are best suited for large and midsize enterprises; software-based NGFWs are best suited for small businesses with simple network infrastructures, and cloud-based NGFWs are best suited for highly decentralized, multi-location sites or enterprises where the required skill sets to manage them are lacking or reallocated.

Today's NGFW can be found deployed:

  • on-premises in the edges of corporations and branch offices
  • on-premises at internal segment borders
  • in public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, and
  • in private clouds, such as VMware and Cisco ACI

4. Price

Pricing for NGFW appliances, software, and cloud services vary greatly depending on manufacturer and model, with prices ranging from roughly $300 to as much as $350,000 per unit. Some companies charge an additional fee for service contracts.

The cost of a hardware firewall is determined by various factors, including:

  • The make, model, and features, such as performance, capacity, and redundancy
  • Any recurring security, service, or support subscription fees
  • The firewall's configuration, monitoring, integration, and continuous maintenance

Choosing next-generation firewalls, whether low-cost or standard-cost, should comprise a thorough assessment of your requirements, beginning with the size of your firm.

Sizing your firewall entails assessing how many people (users) will need to utilize it, how much your firm is expected to expand (or decrease) in the following 24 months, and the balance you expect between on-premises and remote employees.

Among the key questions are:

  • In my network topology, where will the firewall be located?
  • How and by whom will it be administered?
  • How much traffic will it have to handle?
  • What number of interfaces will be required to split traffic?
  • What kinds of traffic inspections do I have to complete?
  • How can I best meet the demands of my remote users?

When calculating the cost of a hardware firewall, the cost of operation and maintenance should also be included. The total cost of ownership (TCO) of a next-generation firewall, whether physical, virtual, or cloud-based, comprises the following factors:

  • Purchase prices
  • Costs of deployment
  • Management expenses
  • The vendor or an authorized partner provides annual support and/or services.
  • Installation, integration, and ongoing maintenance

5. Support

The preceding firewall selection criteria may be elegantly addressed by the vendor's customer support's strength and knowledge. A professional provider will take efforts to tell you about the best approach to go, from the right setup and the complexity of the firewall to advice on BYOD policies.

Even the most knowledgeable and skilled internal IT professionals benefit from the technical assistance given by firewall OEMs.

Before deciding on the best next-generation firewall, learn about continued support from the manufacturer - specifically, ask:

  • Is their support extended beyond the first setup or network integration?
  • What about continuous setups and firewall upgrades, particularly for software firewalls, which must be controlled separately in many cases?
  • Will you have a go-to support expert you can contact for general queries and case concerns?

Support criteria for NGFWs should include responsiveness graded by service request type, quality and accuracy of service response, frequency of product updates, and customer education and understanding of current events.

6. Feature Set

Choosing the best firewall to safeguard your network device(s) entails evaluating the features offered by the firewall. This is especially crucial while deploying next-generation firewalls. Because the main notion is enhanced security protection, you'll want to make sure you obtain all of the greatest features.

Not all NGFW providers provide the same functionality. To protect networks against the most sophisticated network attacks and intrusions, NGFW features often include inline deep packet inspection firewalls, IDS/IPS, application inspection and control, SSL/SSH inspection, URL filtering, and QoS/bandwidth management.

It's crucial to note that not all NGFW suppliers provide all of these functions, and some of them go by various names. Some companies need costly extra licenses for certain functionality. And, on occasion, the functionalities are given via a cloud service rather than through the firewall.

NGFWs can stop current threats such as sophisticated malware and application-layer attacks in addition to access control. A next-generation firewall, according to Gartner, must incorporate the following features:

  • Stateful inspection, for example, is a standard firewall capability.
  • Integrated intrusion detection and prevention
  • Application awareness and control to detect and ban potentially dangerous programs
  • Sources of threat intelligence
  • Pathways should be upgraded to incorporate future information streams
  • Techniques for dealing with emerging security threats

The key is for the organization to understand what it is purchasing and whether it delivers the level of protection necessary for each specific area of desired security.

Should a Next-Generation Firewall be Tested Before Buying?

You can only blame yourself (and blame the vendor who "set you up") after purchasing anything without a pilot project. Marketing brochures should never be trusted. You should not rely on data sheets that give excellent performance indications. Unfortunately, every merchant does this. Before making a purchase, it is highly recommended that you do at least a few tests. The most crucial test is the real-world performance of the NGFW on your actual traffic.

Can Next-Generation Firewalls Be Used in Companies?

Sure. The company may gain additional benefits by utilizing Next-Generation Firewall and its enhanced capabilities. NGFW provides various features that standard firewalls do not, such as preventing malware from accessing the network and being prepared to cope with Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs). Because it combines the capabilities of antivirus, firewall, and other security software into a single solution, NGFW is seen as an effective alternative for businesses trying to increase their security.

Can Next-Generation Firewalls Be Used in Schools?

Absolutely schools can utilize next-generation firewalls and they should. Students are technologically sophisticated. People that seek to exploit kids, as well as the schools they attend, are all part of the problem. These are just two of the several reasons why school administrators are seeking for the best firewall for their schools and progressively updating their firewalls to next-generation solutions that do more than simply block unlawful traffic.

What is the Best Next-Generation Firewall?

Choosing a next-generation firewall with the capabilities you require to safeguard your business from hostile hackers, spyware, and viruses may be difficult and irritating.

There are different sorts, each with its own set of features and levels of protection. Furthermore, the size, breadth, and scale of your company must be considered while selecting a firewall.

To assist you in making your selection, we'll list a few next-generation firewall brands.

  • Zenarmor: It's lightweight and powerful, appliance-free technology that enables enterprises to instantly create firewalls and quickly secure settings as small as home networks or as large as multi-cloud deployments.

  • Fortinet FortiGate (7000 series): A prominent next-generation firewall featuring intrusion prevention, artificial intelligence, SSL inspection, a management console, and more.

  • Forcepoint NGFW: A next-generation firewall that includes automatic failover, enhanced malware detection, application whitelisting/blacklisting, and other features.

  • Palo Alto Networks PA Series: Next-generation machine learning firewall with TLS/SSL decryption, QoS rules, automated attack protection, and more.

  • Juniper Networks SRX Series: A family of firewalls and SD-WAN systems that provide unified threat management, sophisticated threat prevention, centralized security administration, and other features.

  • SonicWall TZ Series Next-Generation Firewalls: Next-generation firewalls featuring zero-touch deployment, deep memory inspection, SSL/TLS decryption, and other features.

  • Barracuda CloudGen Firewall: A next-generation firewall that includes sophisticated threat prevention, IDS/IPS, a VPN, and other features.

  • Cisco FirePOWER Series: A network firewall series that includes an intrusion prevention system (IPS), malware detection, centralized policy administration, URL filtering, and other features.

  • Sophos XG Series: A next-generation firewall series that includes threat intelligence, intrusion prevention, a web application firewall(WAF), an anti-spam solution, and other features.