What Is Firewall-as-a-Service? FWaaS Ultimate Guide

What Is Firewall-as-a-Service? FWaaS Ultimate Guide

What Is Firewall-as-a-Service? FWaaS Ultimate Guide

Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) offers firewall capabilities as a cloud-based service.

Unlike traditional firewalls, which rely on physical or virtual devices located at the network’s perimeter, FWaaS leverages the improved capabilities of next-generation firewalls (NGFW) and makes them available via a cloud-based service.

These cloud-based firewalls let geographically scattered businesses benefit from enhanced security measures without the hassle of supervising on-site hardware installations or completing routine maintenance duties. By extending firewall protections to remote users and offices, enterprises may use FWaaS to efficiently safeguard their digital assets beyond the network perimeter, uniformly enforce security regulations, and respond to new threats.

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How Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) Works

FWaaS serves as a filter between your network and the internet, identifying and blocking potential threats. This real-time filtration process ensures that only authorized and safe data reaches your network to protect your systems from any malicious or suspicious activities.

Firewalls are typically deployed as on-premises appliances or software, but that won’t do much to protect remote offices or mobile workers accessing cloud resources. By moving firewall protections to the cloud and delivering them as a service, an organization can apply security policies and protections uniformly to assets regardless of where they reside.

Instead of sitting in front of traffic to your network like a traditional firewall, FWaaS services typically use agents on endpoint devices, requiring some admin work on the part of security and IT teams to enroll devices and end users even as FWaaS makes uniform application of security policies easier.

Why Is There a Need for FWaaS?

The cloud, remote workforces and IoT and mobile devices have blurred network boundaries and reduced the effectiveness of traditional perimeter security. Technologies like FWaaS, SD-WAN and secure access service edge (SASE) have evolved to protect these expanding virtual networks. Indeed, both FWaaS and SD-WAN are part of much broader SASE solutions, which also include cloud access security brokers (CASBs), secure web gateways, and zero-trust network access (ZTNA).

To combat these constantly changing threats and growing attack surface, FWaaS adjusts its defenses to new attack vectors and threats by utilizing real-time data analysis and machine learning, offering broad, flexible protection for critical digital assets. It’s a seemingly simple change in traditional security models that provides a dramatic increase in protection.

FWaaS also gives organizations a much easier way to scale security protections and keep up with firewall technical advancements, updates and maintenance.

8 Benefits of FWaaS

The primary benefit of Firewalls as a Service is they make the term “outside the firewall” obsolete by adding firewall protections to everything that could be considered part of a broader virtual enterprise network. But there are more specific benefits of FWaaS — here are 8 of them:

Security at Cloud Speed

FWaaS offers robust security in far-flung environments without slowing things down. With FWaaS, your data and applications stay protected without affecting performance, as security becomes as decentralized as the distributed environments they protect. FWaaS seamlessly integrates with your cloud system and virtual networks, ensuring that security doesn’t hinder operations while also making growth and changes more secure. This lets you maintain agility and provide top-notch performance and services for employees and clients alike.

Flexible Cloud Scaling

As your organization grows, security needs to keep up. FWaaS removes concerns about inadequate protection during expansion. Whether you’re entering new markets, launching products, opening new data centers or offices, or seeing a surge in users, FWaaS scales effortlessly. This flexibility ensures strong security, even during rapid growth. You can focus on business goals while safeguarding assets.

Global Reach and Control

Maintaining consistent security across locations is a challenge. FWaaS empowers you with centralized control of large virtual environments. Regardless of your operational reach, you can manage and enforce security policies from one place. This global reach and control ensure effective security measures wherever your data goes.

Modern Network Architecture Support

FWaaS smoothly integrates with modern networks, supporting the latest tech and protocols, and expanding the definition of network security. Whether transitioning to microservices or exploring edge computing, FWaaS adapts, ensuring robust and future-proof security. Innovation and protection go hand in hand.

Simplified Network Architecture

FWaaS simplifies network architecture and security, removing confusing and disparate setups that invite vulnerabilities. This straightforward approach enhances security and lightens management burdens.

Streamlined Policy Enforcement

FWaaS automates policy enforcement across distributed networks. By ensuring consistent, efficient security, FWaaS lowers risks, improves agility, and increases compliance with government regulations and industry rules. And by eliminating the need for local security solutions, it can save money too. Sophisticated protections like intrusion detection, web application firewalls, and data loss prevention can be more widely deployed within an organization.

Increased Network Visibility

FWaaS improves network visibility with a broader view of traffic patterns, potential threats, and anomalies. Better visibility means you can detect and respond to suspicious activity faster too, potentially keeping small security incidents from becoming huge ones.

Enhanced Reliability

With greater consistency and insight into threats and vulnerabilities, FWaaS improves the reliability of networks and operations. These proactive security protections reduce interruptions brought on by malicious cyber activity.

Also read: Network Protection: How to Secure a Network

8 Challenges to Firewall-as-a-Service

The suitability of FWaaS for your organization will depend on your specific needs, security requirements, and existing infrastructure. It’s important to evaluate these potential disadvantages alongside the benefits when considering whether to adopt FWaaS. While Firewalls as a Service offers numerous benefits, here are 8 potential disadvantages to consider:

Dependence on Internet Connectivity

FWaaS heavily relies on a consistent internet connection. If your organization faces internet outages or slowdowns, the network security provided by FWaaS could be compromised. During such instances, your network might be vulnerable to cyber threats due to the reliance on connectivity for protection.

Limited Control Over Customization

Unlike traditional on-premises firewalls, FWaaS might restrict customization options. This can be challenging for organizations with specific security needs or unique network setups. The predefined settings might not align with your organization’s requirements, potentially affecting the desired level of protection.

Data Privacy Concerns

The use of third-party cloud servers for routing network traffic raises concerns about data privacy and compliance. Organizations handling sensitive data might hesitate due to potential exposure to data breaches. Compliance with regulations becomes more complex when data processing occurs outside the organization’s premises, requiring careful evaluation of the FWaaS provider’s data handling practices.

Vendor Reliability

The effectiveness of FWaaS is tied to the reliability of the chosen vendor. Downtime, technical glitches, or breaches on the vendor’s end could compromise your network’s security. Vetting the vendor’s track record and security measures is essential to mitigate this risk.

Initial Setup Complexity

Implementing FWaaS involves modifying existing network structures and configurations. This setup process can be intricate, requiring changes to routing and integration with current security measures. Transitioning from traditional firewalls might require IT teams to acquire new skills. This complexity could lead to longer deployment times and potential disruptions.

Ongoing Costs

FWaaS eliminates upfront hardware expenses but introduces continuous subscription-based costs. Over time, these costs could surpass the investment of traditional firewalls. Organizations must weigh the long-term convenience and improved security against the accumulating expenses.

Limited Local Inspection

Traditional firewalls enable detailed local network traffic inspection. However, FWaaS might perform some inspection in the cloud, reducing visibility into local network activities. This might impact threat detection within the network, necessitating additional security measures.

Integration with Existing Systems

Integrating FWaaS with existing network structures and tools can be complex. Ensuring seamless compatibility requires careful planning and potential custom development. Misaligned integration could lead to disruptions or security vulnerabilities. Organizations must assess the integration feasibility to ensure a smooth transition.

What Is the Difference Between FWaaS and NGFW?

FWaaS and NGFW are types of firewalls with similar functions but different deployment models and security focus. To complicate matters, FWaaS solutions can offer advanced NGFW functionality, while some NGFWs can be hosted in the cloud.

But in general, an NGFW typically goes beyond traditional network firewall functionality like packet filtering and stateful inspection by adding advanced features like application awareness, intrusion prevention, deep packet inspection, user and identity awareness, and SSL/TLS decryption.

Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) is a cloud-based service that provides firewall functionality as part of a cloud computing environment. It offers the same protection as traditional on-premises firewalls but is delivered as a service over the Internet. FWaaS is designed to protect network traffic between various cloud-based resources, such as virtual machines, containers, and applications, within a cloud environment. Key features of FWaaS include its cloud-based operation, scalability, ease of management, and multi-tenancy.

FWaaS and NGFW Differences and Similarities

FWaaS features Shared attributes NGFW features
Deployment Approach:
Operates through cloud-based management by a third-party provider.
Security Focus:
Both FWaaS and NGFW serve as network security measures, guarding against cyber threats.
Deployment Approach:
Utilizes physical or software appliances deployed either on-premises or virtually.
Management Structure:
Managed externally by a provider using web interfaces or APIs.
Access Management:
Both solutions enable the management of incoming and outgoing data traffic through access controls.
Management Structure:
Internally managed, offering greater control over setup and configuration.
Functional Range:
Offers fundamental firewall features and limited supplementary security services.
Network Address Translation (NAT):
Both FWaaS and NGFW support NAT for translating private IP addresses to public ones.
Functional Range:
Provides advanced capabilities such as deep packet inspection, intrusion prevention, and threat detection.
Customization Options:
Limited customization due to cloud-centric design.
Packet Filtering Functionality:
Both solutions execute packet filtering, permitting or blocking specific data packets.
Customization Options:
Allows more tailored customization for security policies.
Scalability Mechanism:
Achieves scalability through cloud resources and infrastructure.
Packet Filtering Functionality:
Both solutions execute packet filtering, permitting or blocking specific data packets.
Scalability Mechanism:
Scalability is influenced by available hardware and resources.
Latency Consideration:
Presents potential latency due to reliance on cloud-based processing.
Intrusion Prevention Capabilities:
Both FWaaS and NGFW possess the ability to identify and thwart intrusion attempts.
Latency Consideration:
Demonstrates lower latency as processing takes place within the organization’s premises.
Compliance and Data Privacy Implications:
Raises data privacy concerns as network traffic is routed through third-party cloud servers.
Centralized Administration:
While NGFWs allow for greater control, both solutions offer centralized management interfaces.
Compliance and Data Privacy Implications:
Enhances control over compliance due to data processing within the organization’s environment.

In addition to their differences and areas of overlap, FWaaS and NGFW share three common functionalities:

  • Security Policy Implementation: Both solutions enforce security policies to ensure network safeguards.
  • Threat Detection Capability: Both FWaaS and NGFW can identify and respond to a wide range of threat types.
  • Application Control Features: Both solutions encompass application control features, regulating user access.

See the Top NGFW Vendors

Top 3 FWaaS Solutions

While there are a number of standout FWaaS solutions, three stand out in our analysis: Perimeter81, Cisco Secure Firewall, and Zscaler offer distinctive methods for safeguarding networks and data that are tailored to meet the demands of complex enterprise environments.

Perimeter 81

Perimeter 81 is a Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) company that focuses on providing secure access to on-premises and cloud resources. Its Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) strategy allows users to access resources based on their identification, reducing the attack surface. Perimeter 81’s user-centric architecture allows businesses to specify and control security rules based on people, groups, and apps.

Its streamlined interface and compatibility with Single Sign-On (SSO) platforms make security management simple. The Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP) architecture ensures resources are only accessible by authorized users and devices, adding an extra layer of security.

Perimeter 81 network management functionality.
Perimeter 81 network management functionality

Cisco Secure Firewall

Cisco offers a range of firewalls that encompass hybrid, cloud and SASE use cases. Secure Firewall is an NGFW solution known for its strong security features and all-encompassing threat defense capabilities. To defend networks from both known and new threats, it incorporates powerful intrusion prevention, application control, URL filtering, and malware protection. The firewall solution from Cisco stands out for its scalability and high-performance features, which make it appropriate for businesses of all sizes.


Zscaler’s cloud firewall is part of the company’s Security Services Edge (SSE) platform and provides a comprehensive solution particularly suited for hybrid environments (see image below). Security checks may be performed on traffic before it reaches the target by routing it through the company’s worldwide cloud network.

Advanced security technologies are used by Zscaler to focus on real-time threat prevention. All communication, including encrypted traffic, is inspected for possible threats, malware, and phishing attempts.

Zscaler cloud firewall architecture infographic.
Zscaler cloud firewall architecture

Bottom Line: Improve Cloud Security with FWaaS

FWaaS is a flexible cybersecurity solution that has been specially designed to manage the complexities of the contemporary digital ecosystem. By utilizing cloud technology, FWaaS greatly expands the utility of firewalls to encompass cloud, hybrid and virtual network environments. As network boundaries blur and cloud environments grow in importance, FWaaS is a creative solution for extending traditional network protections to increasingly complex environments, greatly expanding security control in the process.

This updates a Dec. 16, 2020 article by Sam Ingalls

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