Firewalls are integral to complete the circle of your cybersecurity protection. The two main types of firewalls, software firewalls and hardware firewalls, include lists of worldwide trusted firewall options. These unlimited options, while trusted, can confuse users about which firewall category to choose and which specific firewall software or appliance to choose.

This article takes one of the main hardware firewalls on the market, WatchGuard Firewall, to give you a comprehensive overview of its features, operating systems, performance, pricing and customer service. This is a comprehensive WatchGuard firewall review.

What is WatchGuard Technologies?

WatchGuard Technologies is a cybersecurity company based in Seattle, Washington. They offer multiple security solutions, including unified threat management (UTM) appliances, endpoint security, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and secure Wi-Fi. Their flagship product is the WatchGuard Firebox, a UTM appliance that combines firewall, intrusion prevention, antivirus, anti-spam, and content filtering functionality into a single device.

What is a Watchguard Firewall?

Watchguard Firewall is one of the security appliances manufactured by Watchguard Technologies.
Watchguard Firewall is one of the security appliances manufactured by Watchguard Technologies.

WatchGuard Firewall is one of the security appliances manufactured by WatchGuard Technologies. It is a unified threat management (UTM) appliance that acts as a security guard for your network. WatchGuard Firewall offers a comprehensive suite of functionalities to protect your business from various cyberattacks and threats. It provides a flexible and adaptable way to enhance your network security, regardless of your business size or specific security requirements.

WatchGuard Firewall: Everything You Need to Know

As a security appliance, WatchGuard secures your network against various cyberattacks and threats. It utilises and offers multiple security features to reach this end while working to serve customers from different business spectrums. The firewall appliance uses extensive security features such as network control, IPS/IDS, antivirus, anti-spam, web filtering, VPN and more.

Purpose

WatchGuard Firewall’s core objective is to secure your network against cyberattacks and threats. The firewall appliance protects against a wide range of malicious activities, including viruses, malware, hackers and other network intrusions.

Features

An extensive overview of Watchguard Firewall’s security features demonstrates how it goes beyond a basic firewall to offer a comprehensive suite of security functionalities. WatchGuard Firewall security features include a stateful firewall to control and filter all incoming and outgoing network traffic based on the predefined firewall settings in the appliance. Its Intrusion Prevention System (IPS/IDS) actively detects and blocks malicious attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in your network. You also get antivirus and anti-malware protection to scan for and neutralise known and emerging malware threats. With powerful anti-spam features, the WatchGuard Firewall filters unwanted and potentially harmful email messages.

WatchGuard Firewall gives you web filtering capabilities to restrict access to inappropriate or malicious websites. The security solution gives you good control over your application; its granular control over which applications can access the internet prevents unauthorised software usage and data exfiltration. With WatchGuard Firewall, you also get a VPN to enable employees, partners, and customers to have secure remote access to your network. Specific WatchGuard Firewall models and security packages offer additional features like data loss prevention, sandboxing and cloud sandboxing.

Target audience

WatchGuard Firewall caters to diverse needs by offering solutions for small startups, growing businesses and even large enterprises with complex network infrastructures. WatchGuard deployment options, which we will discuss next, provide flexible and adaptable ways to secure your network, regardless of your business size or specific security requirements.

Deployment options

Deployment options represent the different methods to install, use and customise the Watchguard Firewall to serve your security requirements best. Three deployment options are available: the first is hardware appliances, which are the traditional physical devices installed on-premises. The second is the virtual appliances, which refer to the software-based solutions deployed on virtual machines or cloud platforms. The third and last deployment option is cloud-based deployment, which refers to fully managed firewall services hosted by WatchGuard in the cloud.

WatchGuard Firewall: Core Security Features

Watchguard Firewall - Core Security Features
Watchguard Firewall – Core Security Features

Let’s discuss WatchGuard Firewall’s core security features in more detail to give you a comprehensive overview of what to expect when choosing this firewall as one of your cybersecurity options. These core features extend beyond filtering network traffic and web filtering to make your cybersecurity plan more comprehensive.

Stateful Firewall

WatchGuard Firewall’s main feature is acting as a gatekeeper, examining in-and-out network traffic to enforce pre-defined security rules. To do this job, the firewall keeps track of active connections and their states, such as open or closed connections, and then it blocks unauthorised traffic based on a wide set of rules that include IP addresses, ports, protocols and application types. These two past steps help the firewall prevent intrusions, unauthorised access and data breaches.

Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)

The IPS feature aims to detect and block malicious network traffic to counteract attacks before they can cause harm to your devices. WatchGuard analyses network traffic, looking for patterns associated with known attacks, then identifies and blocks attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in your systems or applications. Enforcing these steps protects you against malware, DoS attacks, and other advanced threats.

Antivirus and Anti-Malware

One of WatchGuard’s vital features is its protection against viruses, malware and other software threats that can damage your systems and steal data. Its unwavering scanning of network traffic for malicious code enables it to block and quarantine infected files and arms your device with real-time protection against known and emerging threats.

Anti-Spam

WatchGuard’s anti-spam feature filters unwanted email messages, keeping inboxes clean and reducing the risk of phishing attacks. The firewall’s combination of techniques identifies and blocks spam emails, such as blacklists, content filtering and reputation-based filtering. While it prevents spam from clogging inboxes, it also reduces the risk of users clicking on malicious links.

Web Filtering

A web filtering function blocks access to inappropriate or malicious websites to protect users from harmful content and online threats. WatchGuard categorises websites based on content and risk level, then enforces policies to block access to certain categories of websites, such as gambling, pornography or sites known to be infected with malware. The end result is that WatchGuard protects users from phishing attacks, malware downloads and other online threats.

Application Control  

WatchGuard granular control over which applications can access the internet prevents unauthorised software usage and data exfiltration. The firewall allows administrators to create rules to allow or prevent specific applications from accessing the internet. It further prevents using unauthorised applications that could pose security risks or violate company policies.

Virtual Private Network

VPNs allow remote users to connect to the corporate network, enabling them to access resources and work securely from any location. WatchGuard creates an encrypted tunnel between the user’s device and the corporate network to grant employees, partners and customers secure remote access, protecting data confidentiality and integrity during transmission.

WatchGuard Firewall: Compatible Operating Systems

WatchGuard Firewalls are compatible with various desktop and smartphone operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS.

WatchGuard Firewall: User-Interface and Performance

The Watchguard Firewall management interface is web-based and easy to use, even for non-technical users
The Watchguard Firewall management interface is web-based and easy to use, even for non-technical users

The WatchGuard Firebox management interface is web-based and easy to use, even for non-technical users. It provides a centralized view of all security settings and activities. WatchGuard Fireboxes offer strong performance for their price point, even for small businesses. However, the exact performance capabilities vary depending on the specific model chosen.

WatchGuard Firewall: Pricing

Before we get into the details of the different pricing plans for WatchGuard Fireboxes, it’s vital to say that the official WatchGuard website doesn’t provide Firebox prices. You will need to access their “How to Buy” page, select your desired security product after looking at their security packages, and then you will click “Find a Reseller”. This is the only option if you wish to purchase any of WatchGuard’s security products.

One of the trusted online resellers of WatchGuard security products is GuardSite, which lists the appliances’ different prices. You can find appliances for $500 as entry-level models, which covers the hardware cost of the physical appliance itself and basic firewall functionality. However, the cost will increase significantly as you choose different and higher-end models.

The cost also depends on the specific features and security services you need. Additional security services like advanced malware protection, deep packet inspection and data loss prevention will add to the final cost. Moreover, the increased number of users, subscription length, licensing and additional support methods also affect the firewall prices.

While WatchGuard Fireboxes doesn’t have a free version to try out, they offer you a 30-day free trial to test their products and determine whether they suit your security needs and proceed with a later purchase or if you’d prefer to upgrade your security package to a more comprehensive appliance.

Alternatives to Consider

There are several open-source firewalls to consider if budget is a major concern; these options include pfSense and OPNsense. However, such firewalls require greater technical expertise to set up and manage.

WatchGuard Firewall: Customer Support

In regards to customer support, WatchGuard offers an extensive online support arsenal. The firewall’s website provides three main support options: technical resources, training and support services. These three options bring you everything you need help with, from user forums to product and support blogs, training and video tutorials, and even hiring an expert to help you troubleshoot the Firebox technical problems.

WatchGuard Firewall Final Review

WatchGuard Firewalls provide businesses of all sizes with comprehensive and affordable security solutions. However, you may want to consider other vendors if you’re looking for top-of-the-line performance or advanced features.

Pros

We begin with WatchGuard’s best security features. WatchGuard Fireboxes provide you with essential security features to safeguard your network against various threats. The firewall’s web-based interface is intuitive and user-friendly, making it ideal for users of all technical skill levels. The different range of Firebox models caters to the security needs of different businesses, from small startups to large enterprises.

We can add that compared to other UTM solutions, WatchGuard Fireboxes offer good value for their price, making them an inviting option for budget-conscious businesses. Finally, the reliable customer support methods WatchGuard offers ensure that you get the help you need when you need it.

Cons

WatchGuard Fireboxes offer good performance. However, some high-end market competitors offer better protection and performance. If your business has very demanding network needs, the WatchGuard Fireboxes might be overwhelmed. Some WatchGuard Fireboxes’ advanced features, such as sandboxing and deep packet inspection, require separate licenses, which increases the overall security cost. Moreover, WatchGuard gives you limited web filtering and data loss prevention capabilities. Unfortunately, if you need the advanced versions of these features, you might need to look for another vendor.

To round up our WatchGuard Firewall review, we recommend considering several points. These points include your specific security needs, budget, the firewall’s easy management and whether you need advanced features such as sandboxing or deep packet inspection. With these points in mind, you can choose the right WatchGuard Firewall for your business.