How Does Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) Work?

Firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS) is an outsourced software-as-a-service (SaaS) firewall solution that a cybersecurity vendor provides to a company as part of a network security strategy.  

See below to learn all about how FWaaS solutions work:

How FWaaS works

What technology is used for FWaaS?

A FWaaS is a cloud-based firewall solution by a network security vendor that you can remotely access and deploy on your own network.

This technique of hosting firewalls on remote servers isn’t exclusive to a single type of firewall. It can be applied to a wide variety of firewall technologies, like packet-filtering firewalls, application-level firewalls, next-generation firewalls (NGFWs), and stateful inspection firewalls.

FWaaS are remote-access virtualized firewalls that are capable of the same functionality as software- or hardware-based firewalls implemented on-premises. Traffic inbound and outbound for your network’s user devices, applications, and servers is routed to the firewall server where it’s monitored and scanned for malware, as well as suspicious and malicious activity.

A zero-trust approach to network security

The zero trust network access architecture can be deployed in tandem with FWaaS and secure access service edge (SASE) solutions through the same cloud.

Zero trust can be made a part of the virtual firewall’s authentication and network access control capabilities. By removing the inherent trust of endpoint devices and users, a firewall is able to assume every user, inside or outside your network is a malicious individual until proven otherwise.

You can allocate the task and computational power of minimizing access privileges to your third-party FWaaS contractor, which can work perfectly alongside the micro-segmentation of your network and its resources.

How difficult is it to set up FWaaS?

FWaaS solutions, in terms of convenience, once more beats software and hardware firewall solutions by being the easiest to set up. For most vendors, the setup process is as simple as logging into the service through the provided web panel on all devices and servers you’re looking to include in the protection.

The login is the most time-consuming part of the setup process. After that, the process is fairly similar to on-premises firewall solutions only from a centralized command center for the entirety of the network.

Through the FWaaS server, you’ll have to determine the number of segments in your network and any internal locations that the firewall’s monitoring and scanning may be required. The configuration step follows, as the enforcement of policies is automatic and covers all the devices, applications, and users within the parameters of the network.

Since FWaaS solutions are designed for companies with little technical experience, the setup process is designed to be as easy and straightforward as possible, leaving any complex work for the hired services of the third party.

What are the differences between FWaaS and a firewall?

FWaaS is one of three types of firewalls when categorized based on the method of delivery with some overlap. 

Software-based firewalls are security applications that get installed directly on your network’s devices. They need RAM and CPU resources just like other applications on your network, but have established access privileges to the incoming and outgoing network traffic.

Hardware firewalls are dedicated physical devices that are deployed on the outer wall of the network and between critical points of traffic. They work in a nearly identical manner to software firewalls with all network links, switches, and routers passing through them. They pose a lower weight to the network’s resources and can be more easily deployed on a wider scale, making them more suitable than the alternative for organizations with large and complex network structures.

FWaaS solutions are virtual firewalls or software that’s hosted by a third-party provider on a remote server that they own and maintain, but lease out to organizations as a security SaaS solution. Unlike firewalls deployed traditionally, FWaaS doesn’t use up any of your network’s CPU and RAM resources and can be scaled to cover any change in the number of devices added to or removed from your network.

What is the core functionality of FWaaS?

The primary purpose behind developing FWaaS as an offering is to make network security yet another aspect of business that can be outsourced for the right price.

It has multiple purposes and advantages that differentiate it from its counterparts in terms of benefits and available functionality.

Streamlined scalability

FWaaS is a type of SaaS, which awards it the scalability benefit of many SaaS solutions. You can easily contact the service provider and increase your capacity anywhere from a few new devices to multiple servers without needing to manually implement them into your infrastructure.

This capability is especially important for a network security solution as it’s ill-advised to connect a new device, user, or application to your network without extending the firewall to it.

Integration with cloud and web services

Because FWaaS solutions are already delivered remotely through an internet connection, extending their radius to include your cloud tools and web applications and services is more streamlined compared to hardware and on-premises software.

Furthermore, they’re more flexible and are best integrated with other network security tools that are cloud-based, such as SASE, Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and Web Application Firewall (WAF).

Remote worker-friendly

The inclusion of devices and users that aren’t directly connected to your network is the biggest struggle of on-premises firewalls. FWaaS, however, can easily be extended to remote and hybrid workers accessing network resources through their own internet connections, whether it’s using personal devices or company-issue.

This capability is the reason FWaaS solutions are playing a big role in the cybersecurity landscape as more companies adopt more flexible work models that include remote, hybrid, and international options.

Centralized network access and visibility

Centralizing the location of network traffic monitoring and management across the architecture improves network visibility and access through the same centralized means.

Through an internet connection to the FWaaS web client, your IT team can gain uninterrupted access to a single dashboard that enables them to manage and oversee the entirety of the network’s traffic, and user and application behavior.

The same system can then be utilized for policy setting and wide-scale enforcement, ensuring no segment of the network received late policy updates.

Bottom line

On-premises firewall solutions, whether software- or hardware-based, require a lot of resources on your end; from skilled technicians and security experts to actually purchasing and installing the needed hardware. FWaaS alternatives, on the other hand, outsource the entirety of the technical work required to host your own firewall.

Additionally, and like most SaaS providers, FWaaS oftentimes offer flexible payment models that only charge you for the amount of data traffic scans, and the number of devices, users, and applications covered by their security.

That makes FWaaS more accessible for smaller companies looking to upgrade their cybersecurity and reduces the costs in the long term, even for more established organizations.

Anina Ot
Anina Ot
Anina is a writer who has been writing about security, privacy, cloud computing, and data science for the past three years. She believes technology exists to make lives easier, but many people are intimidated by highly technical topics. She started writing to make tech and privacy more accessible.

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