What is a managed firewall?
Managed firewall services are offered by a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) whereby they operate, administer, monitor, and maintain your firewall infrastructure. Firewalls are not plug and play tools, especially advanced models like feature-rich Next Generation Firewalls (NGFW). They’re complicated pieces of technology and you need to know you have the right knowledge, set up and upkeep in place to ensure they protect your business. Firewalls are only as effective as the people managing them. Having a managed firewall means you have experts on your case who will proactively monitor, maintain and update your firewall to keep you protected.
Do I need managed firewall services?
Effective firewall management takes in-depth knowledge and regular monitoring. A firewall is not a piece of technology you can set and forget. So, for businesses where IT is not their main focus, or where they don’t have staff with firewall expertise, they are hard pressed to make time or assign resources to stay on top of firewall best practice. This might mean skipping important updates or maintenance—leading to increased risk of cyberattacks. Even for those companies with firewall expertise, there’s a rise in security breaches and highly developed cyberattacks, meaning you might need to lean on the in-depth, up-to-date knowledge of a specialized MSSP to thoroughly protect your network.
Organizations that are moving to the cloud or have to manage multiple locations and increasing number of devices should also think about managed firewall services. When so much of your data and applications are run and managed on third-party infrastructure, you lose visibility and control over the entire network. With a distributed set up like this, managed firewall technology is best when it relies on virtualization. Physical firewalls are complicated, do not scale and lock you in. Moving to virtual firewalls means getting the same features but more flexibility. With a virtual managed firewall, your MSSP can change your security features and capacity very quickly and easily—at the touch of a button—rather than having to make a change to the physical network infrastructure. Instead of locked-in physical firewalls, you get a vendor-agnostic system that is quicker to deploy, easier to scale and most cost-effective.
There are several scenarios where your organization will benefit from virtual managed firewall services, including:
- Multiple firewalls: The amount of time, expertise and resources needed to regularly maintain and monitor a single firewall is multiplied when you introduce more firewalls. Your organization may just not have these resources. If those firewalls are physical, the resources required from your organization to maintain and monitor them, then add extra capacity when you grow, is likely to end up being unsustainable. All the more reason to go virtual and outsource the work. With a managed virtual firewall service, it becomes that much easier and quicker to install and configure new firewalls for additional locations.
- Lack of skills: Staff need more and more niche know-how when it comes to keeping up to date with new threats and firewall management. There are some concepts that not all IT personnel are familiar with. However, it may not be cost-effective to retain the specialized IT staff, especially if you’re a smaller organization. There’s often an expectation for IT staff to keep systems up and running for day-to-day business operations and just ‘make things work’, but this becomes risky if they don’t have specialized knowledge of firewall technology.
- Balancing access and security: When firewalls are managed in-house it can be tempting to change the rules in response to business demands—easier access to executives for example, or the need to make the network run quicker. If protocols are too restrictive, firewalls can become business inhibitors. However, easy access to more than necessary or to inappropriate individuals is a recipe for disaster. This is where a managed service provider who has assessed your needs and risk level, and set appropriate policies, will prevent spontaneous changes which invite security breaches and data exfiltration.
- Meeting compliance: It can be complicated to stay compliant with all the different standards—PCI DSS, HIPPA, GDPR. If your staff don’t have the expertise to stay on top of this, an MSSP will ensure compliance by aligning your firewall rules, filtering, and patch process with the specific compliance requirements.
What functionality can I get with this solution?
While MSSPs differ in their solution offerings, what’s important to remember is that managed firewall services will give you access to industry leading, up-to-date cyber security software and personnel. And if your MSSP offers virtual firewalls, you can get a fast, simple, agile virtual platform rather than lock in to physical hardware.
Virtual managed firewall services typically include:
- Initial assessment: of your network security needs
- Firewall installation and configuration: including VPN configuration
- Firewall auditing: checking for configuration errors and other issues that may impact security and performance
- Firewall updates: including Rules Updates and Modifications,Policies, and patches
- Firewall scaling: add additional virtual firewalls at the click of a button
- Firewall monitoring and alerts: including application control, web content filtering, Patch Management, Log Monitoring, ticketing and tracking services
- Response: responding to data breach attempts on your behalf
- Reporting: outlining the nature and origin of security threats, and explaining the action taken to prevent unauthorised access to the business network
If you are an MSSP, see how you can automate your managed virtual firewall service.
What are the benefits of managed firewall services?
The greatest benefit of managed firewall services is the peace of mind that your firewalls are healthy, blocking threats, and protecting your network. With virtual firewalls, you also know you have complete visibility into and control over the whole of your networks without needing to deploy physical appliances. It allows your IT team to focus on strategic issues rather than fighting fires.
Other benefits include:
- 24/7 proactive security and improved data security overall. You’ll get access to the latest threat intelligence sources because MSSPs are 100% focused on the evolving security market, including the tools, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) used by malicious actors. It’s challenging for in-house IT teams to remain up to date with the global threat landscape at all times. With a dedicated provider you address the skill shortage of critical cybersecurity knowledge.
- Rapid response times and faster intrusion protection. An MSSP can stop threats in their tracks and notify someone with the right skills and availability to respond immediately. They can block new vulnerabilities at the perimeter before patches even become available for the emerging threats.
- Lower costs. When you outsource your firewall management you’ll set a level of service which suits your needs and only pay for what you’re using. If the in-house option looks cheaper on paper, consider the costs of sourcing IT infrastructure, employing specialist IT staff to perform maintenance and patch fixes, and maybe the cost of additional office space to house an IT department. But it’s not just the price of firewall management in-house or out that you need to consider. What price might you pay if you don’t have a well-managed firewall? Resolving a breach costs about $3.86 million on average. When you consider this risk, what might you save by using a managed firewall service?
- Leveraging new capabilities. You may not be making the most of your firewall capabilities. An MSSP willconsider and initiate relevant features for your business needs. Features like Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), Web-Filtering, Anti-Virus, and Application Control.
- Consistency in the application and enforcement of security policies across all locations, devices and users.
- Automated updates including software and firmware updates.
- Empowering digital transformation. As well as top-notch firewall management, you have a first-row seat to the newest tools, platforms and advances in technology such as automated virtualization, secure access service edge (SASE), public and hybrid cloud, IoT, and mobility.
How do I choose the right MSSP for my business?
Every business has different network security needs and every MSSP offers a different service offering. Make sure you look for a service provider that is PCI compliant and has a current Attestation of Compliance (AOC) to prove it. You’ll also want an MSSP that can tailor their managed firewall solutions to your business needs and provide all the benefits mentioned above. An MSSP that offers virtual firewall services will deliver you a solution that is quicker to deploy, easy to scale, simple to manage, and has all the features of physical firewalls without the cost and downtime associated with maintaining hardware. You can find a list of the top MSSPs on MSSP Alert which conducts an annual survey.