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WatchGuard Firebox vs pfSense comparison

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Executive Summary
Updated on May 30, 2022

We performed a comparison between pfSense and WatchGuard Firebox based on our users’ reviews in five categories. After reading all of the collected data, you can find our conclusion below.

  • Ease of Deployment: Most pfSense users say that its initial setup is straightforward, but a small percentage disagree, feeling that the setup is complex and requires a higher level of technical expertise. WatchGuard users say that its initial setup is straightforward.

  • Features: Users of both products are for the most part very satisfied with their scalability and stability. pfSense reviewers like its VPN features and say it is robust and performs well but could be more secure. WatchGuard reviewers say it has a good interface, advanced security features, and is reliable. Several WatchGuard users mention that it needs better documentation.

  • Pricing: pfSense is an open-source solution and is free of charge. WatchGuard reviewers feel that its price is fair.

  • Service and Support: pfSense offers commercial support in addition to free online support forums. Reviewers of both solutions report being satisfied with the level of support they receive.

  • ROI: Reviewers for both solutions report seeing an ROI.

Comparison Results: Both products received high marks from reviewers, but WatchGuard ultimately won out in this comparison. According to reviews, WatchGuard appears to be a more secure solution.

To learn more, read our detailed WatchGuard Firebox vs. pfSense report (Updated: March 2020).
Buyer's Guide
WatchGuard Firebox vs. pfSense
March 2020
Find out what your peers are saying about WatchGuard Firebox vs. pfSense and other solutions. Updated: March 2020.
609,272 professionals have used our research since 2012.
Featured Review
Quotes From Members
We asked business professionals to review the solutions they use.
Here are some excerpts of what they said:
Pros
"It's got the capabilities of amassing a lot of throughput with remote access and VPNs.""It is one of the fastest solutions, if not the fastest, in the security technology space. This gives us peace of mind knowing that as soon as a new attack comes online that we will be protected in short order. From that perspective, no one really comes close now to Firepower, which is hugely valuable to us from an upcoming new attack prevention perspective.""One of the most valuable features of Firepower 7.0 is the "live log" type feature called Unified Event Viewer. That view has been really good in helping me get to data faster, decreasing the amount of time it takes to find information, and allowing me to fix problems faster. I've found that to be incredibly valuable because it's a lot easier to get to some points of data now.""You do not have to do everything through a command line which makes it a lot easier to apply rules.""It has a good security level. It is a next-generation firewall. It can protect from different types of attacks. We have enabled IPS and IDS.""The content filtering is good.""The most valuable feature is the access control list (ACL).""The most valuable features of this solution are advanced malware protection, IPS, and IDS."

More Cisco Firepower NGFW Firewall Pros →

"The initial setup was simple and fast.""The interface is straightforward and easy to use.""We like the fact that the product is open-source. It's free to use. There are no costs associated with it.""The solution is very easy to use and configure.""Good basic firewall features.""Is good at blocking IP addresses.""The initial setup is not complex.""The main features of this solution are customization and ease to use."

More pfSense Pros →

"Because we bought two firewalls... we need a central place to manage the policies and deploy them to both devices. It's good that it provides a system management console that is able to manipulate and manage policies in one place and deploy them to different locations.""The main features of the solution are the control of the site-to-site network access and the overall features.""All of the features have been valuable. There's nothing on my M270 that I'm not using. If you have remote access, you can see how many users are coming from the outside world to be connected to the systems, through the virus systems that we have behind the firewall, in order to gain access to their files and do their work. We can also see how long they stay online and whether these connections are closed forcefully or for any other reasons, such as a glitch or some kind of misbehavior, to see if internet traffic is optimized and if that particular traffic is under company policies, concerning which websites were visited.""The most valuable features of the WatchGuard Firebox are all the security and updated features. You are able to configure the solution from the cloud platform and the application and web interface are very nice.""The security that is used for defending from the attacks is very good.""The features that I have found most valuable are the FireWall features. The management side of WatchGuard is quite easy because it supports two ways to manage it - by the web and the other one they call WatchGuard systems manager. I used to be familiar with WSM only, but they improved their GUI in the web browser and now it is much easier to do it within the web browser.""There are no problems with the technical support. If a problem occurs it gets resolved immediately with our technical support partners.""Two of the functionalities we use most are the traffic monitoring and the full panel dashboard. Those are two things that are very useful for us... In addition, it provides us with layered security. It allows us to determine what types of access, to which networks, we want to allow or deny."

More WatchGuard Firebox Pros →

Cons
"There is limited data storage on the appliance itself. So, you need to ship it out elsewhere in order for you to store it. The only point of consideration is around that area, basically limited storage on the machine and appliance. Consider logging it elsewhere or pushing it out to a SIEM to get better controls and manipulation over the data to generate additional metrics and visibility.""We only have an issue with time sync with Cisco ASA and NTP. If the time is out of sync, it will be a disaster for the failover.""I would like to see improvement when you create policies on Snort 3 IPS on Cisco Firepower. On Snort 2, it was more like a UI page where you had some multiple choices where you could tweak your config. On Snort 3, the idea is more to build some rules on the text file or JSON file, then push it. So, I would like to see a lot of improvements here.""This product is managed using the Firepower Management Center (FMC), but it would be better if it also supported the command-line interface (CLI).""The ability to better integrate with other tools would be an improvement.""It would be great if some of the load times were faster.""Implementations require the use of a console. It would help if the console was embedded.""The configuration in Firepower Management Center is very slow. Deployment takes two to three minutes. You spend a lot of time on modifications. Whereas, in FortiGate, you press a button, and it takes one second."

More Cisco Firepower NGFW Firewall Cons →

"Other solutions provide more scope for growth. For instance, we can have only 10 to 20 employees on VPN, but other solutions can support more users. We also have more capabilities to increase the performance of the solution.""User interface is a little clumsy.""Lacks instructional videos.""Ultimately, we'd like something stronger, and something that can handle threats better in real-time.""It would be great to add more to security.""The interface is not very shiny and attractive.""The integration could be improved.""Many people have problems setting up the web cache for the web system."

More pfSense Cons →

"The solution is lacking a professional website, they should be updated more often.""The data loss protection works well, but it could be easier to configure. The complexity of data loss protection makes it a more difficult feature to fully leverage. Better integration with third-party, two-factor authentication would be advantageous.""I would like to see the devices made more flexible by adding modules to increase the ports that we can use.""The solution can improve by adding a feature to tag a MAC address of a computer system in the policy and more IP configuration settings.""They are working on cloud-based options. However, they do not have the options fully functional in their solution at this time.""The only downside is that it is missing an API, that you can use to easily collect information from it.""Its documentation could be improved. Sometimes, you need to search a bit longer to find what you are looking for.""The UI is not as user-friendly as the model that I had used before, which was from Check Point. The design of the Firebox UI is restricted and needs an experienced network guy to understand the format and settings."

More WatchGuard Firebox Cons →

Pricing and Cost Advice
  • "Cisco, as we all know, is expensive, but for the money you are paying, you know that you are also getting top-notch documentation as well as support if needed."
  • "This product requires licenses for advanced features including Snort, IPS, and malware detection."
  • "This product is expensive."
  • "For me, personally, as an individual, Cisco Firepower NGFW Firewall is expensive."
  • "The price of Firepower is not bad compared to other products."
  • "The solution was chosen because of its price compared to other similar solutions."
  • "The price is comparable."
  • "It definitely competes with the other vendors in the market."
  • More Cisco Firepower NGFW Firewall Pricing and Cost Advice →

  • "We are using the open-source version, not the commercial one."
  • "It has almost zero cost, and it is open to us. It runs on a small appliance just for a couple of 100 bucks, and I've never had an appliance burn out on me yet."
  • "It is open source."
  • "I spent a couple of $1,000 on hardware, and the OS was free. A comparable firewall would cost me probably 20 grand. It saved a lot of money."
  • "I like the fact that it is open-source."
  • "pfSense is open-source, but the support is something that the customer pays for."
  • "The pricing is lower than some of its competitors."
  • "pfSense is open-source."
  • More pfSense Pricing and Cost Advice →

  • "I think the larger firewall packages are much better because a normal firewall is not enough for these times. You need IPS, APT, and all the security features of a firewall that you can buy."
  • "WatchGuard had a very competitive price. It was only 10 to 20 percent more than a single instance device but with that extra cost it provided a second load balancing device... unlike other brands whose method of hardware and software licensing would have doubled our cost."
  • "They license it. When we buy it, we buy it with a three-year license. That's the most cost-effective way to do it. So, if you're going to buy it, then buy it with the three-year licensing."
  • "I spent $600 or $800 on this product and I'm paying a couple of hundred dollars a year in a subscription service to keep the lights on, on it... It works out to $100 or $200 a year if you buy several years at once. It's fair."
  • "The primary reason that we went with Firebox was its cost. It is very economical and it provided us with all the security functions that we were looking for at the time. And the throughput was more than what we required, so it was a very cost-effective device to deploy on our network."
  • "I find the solution to be very affordable."
  • "It's fair pricing, but it could always be reduced."
  • "It has a very good price. It is not the most expensive one, and it is also not the cheapest one. It is just spot-on in terms of price."
  • More WatchGuard Firebox Pricing and Cost Advice →

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    Questions from the Community
    Top Answer: When you compare these firewalls you can identify them with different features, advantages, practices and… more »
    Top Answer: The Cisco Firepower NGFW Firewall is a very powerful and very complex piece of anti-viral software. When one considers… more »
    Top Answer:It is easy to integrate Cisco ASA with other Cisco products and also other NAC solutions. When you understand the Cisco… more »
    Top Answer:Fortinet’s Fortigate is a firewall solution we use and are very much satisfied with its performance. We find Fortigate… more »
    Top Answer:Two of the most common and well recognized firewalls, PfSense and OPNsense both support site-to-site IPsec VPN and… more »
    Top Answer:It is very easy to use. The interface is quite understandable. There is a good community, and I can take over at any… more »
    Top Answer:We are providing our services to all WatchGuard customers in the region. 
    Top Answer:We just use it as a secondary WiFi device. We're a small office and we needed to set up a WiFi device for a few of our… more »
    Top Answer:We're a hospital and we use it for developing our incoming and outgoing policies, and we also use it for VPN.
    Comparisons
    Also Known As
    Cisco Firepower NGFW, Cisco Firepower Next-Generation Firewall, FirePOWER, Cisco NGFWv
    Learn More
    Netgate
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    Overview

    Cisco Firepower Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) is a firewall that provides capabilities beyond those of a standard firewall and delivers comprehensive, unified policy management of firewall functions, application control, threat prevention, and advanced malware protection from the network to the endpoint.

    Cisco NGFW Firewalls include advanced threat defense capabilities to meet diverse needs, from small offices to high-performance data centers and service providers, and are deployed in leading private and public clouds. Available in a wide range of models, Cisco NGFW can be deployed as a physical or virtual appliance. Cisco NGFW firewalls are also available with clustering for increased performance, high availability configurations, and more.

    Key Features of Cisco NGFW Firewalls

    • Breach prevention and advanced security: Prevent attacks before they get inside. Cisco provides its firewalls with the latest intelligence to stop emerging threats and employs filtering to enforce policies on hundreds of millions of URLs. Cisco NGFW offers built-in sandboxing and advanced malware protection that continuously analyzes file behavior to quickly detect and eliminate threats.

    • Comprehensive network visibility: Constantly monitor your network so you can rapidly spot and stop bad behavior. Cisco NGFW provides a holistic view of all activity and provides a clear picture of threat activity across users, hosts, networks, and devices, as well as information on threats and website, application, and VM activities.

    • Flexible management and deployment options: Centrally deploy, customize, and manage all your appliances.

    • Fast detection: Detect threats in seconds and detect the presence of a successful breach within hours or minutes. Cisco NGFW allows you to deploy consistent policy that's easy to maintain, with automatic enforcement across all the different parts of your organization.

    • Automation and product integrations: Seamlessly integrate with Cisco tools and automatically share threat information, event data, policy, and contextual information with email, web, endpoint, and network security tools. Cisco NGFW automates security tasks like impact assessment, policy management and tuning, and user identification.

    Reviews from Real Users

    Cisco NGFW stands out among its competitors for a number of reasons. Two major ones are its extensive discovery abilities that enable you to constantly see what is happening on your network and take action when necessary, and the high level of protection it provides.

    Mike B., a director of IT security at a wellness & fitness company, writes, "It is one of the fastest solutions, if not the fastest, in the security technology space. This gives us peace of mind knowing that as soon as a new attack comes online that we will be protected in short order. From that perspective, no one really comes close now to Firepower, which is hugely valuable to us from an upcoming new attack prevention perspective."

    Zhulien K., the lead network security engineer at TechnoCore LTD, notes, " The most valuable feature that Cisco Firepower NGFW provides for us is the Intrusion policy. Again, with that being said, I cannot shy away from giving kudos to all of the other features such as AVC (Application Visibility and Control), SSL Decryption, Identity policy, Correlation policy, REST API, and more. All of the features that are incorporated in the Cisco Firepower NGFW are awesome and easy to configure if you know what you are doing. Things almost always work, unless you hit a bug, which is fixed with a simple software update. "

    pfSense is a free and open-source operating system for routers and firewalls, and is typically configured as DHCP server, DNS server, WiFi access point, VPN server, all running on the same hardware device. It is operated through a user-friendly web interface, making administration easy even for users with limited networking knowledge.

    In addition, pfSense is feature-rich, has a mature platform, is customizable, is flexible by design, and can be used on a small home router as well as run the entire network of a large corporation. pfSense puts you in control of your networking, is regularly updated, and works to promptly patch security issues. pfSense has recently become the favored alternative to the industry leader, Cisco.

    pfSense is:

    • Robust
    • Powerful
    • Easy to use
    • Secure
    • Scalable

    pfSense Key Features

    pfSense has many key features and capabilities, including:

    • Strength and accuracy: pfSense is able to always follow either default or custom rules, making it a stronger firewall than some of its competitors. It also filters traffic separately, whether it’s coming from your internal network of devices or the open internet, allowing you to set different rules and policies for each.

    • Flexibility: pfSense can work both as a basic firewall and as a complete security system because it gives you the flexibility to integrate additional features as code where necessary.

    • Open-source: Because it is open-source, not only is pfSense free to use, but community members can contribute to the code to make it a better software.

    • User-friendly: Usually firewall products are not user-friendly because they often include complex settings, options, and features that require fine-tuning. pfSense’s interface is simple, direct, and easy to use.

    • WireGuard Support: Instead of building your own VPN using pfSense, or settling for a commercial VPN provider, you can directly integrate WireGuard with the pfSense firewall.

    • Speed Management and Fault Tolerance: pfSense’s multi-WAN feature allows your system to continue operating in case components fail.

    • Well-supported: pfSense regularly has security and feature updates. It also has a documentation site and a well-informed and knowledgeable support forum.

    Reviews from Real Users

    Below is some feedback from PeerSpot Users who are currently using the solution.

    Bojan O., CEO at In.sist d.o.o., says, “The classic features, such as content inspection, content protection, and the application-level firewall, are the most important."

    Another PeerSpot user, a chef at a media company, explains what he finds most valuable about pfSense: "The plugins or add-ons are most valuable. Sometimes, they are free of charge, and sometimes, you have to pay for them, but you can purchase or download very valuable plugins or add-ons to perform internal testing of your network and simulate a denial-of-service attack or whichever attack you want to simulate. You can also remote and monitor your network and see where the gap is."

    T.O., a VP of Business Development at a tech services company, mentions, "What I found most valuable is the cost of the platform, the flexibility of the platform, and the fact that the ongoing fees are not there as they are with the competitor."



    WatchGuard Firebox is a unified security platform that offers organizations protection from cyber threats through a powerful network security device that controls all traffic between an external network and a trusted network. The solution is ideal for small and midsize businesses as well as for distributed enterprises. WatchGuard Firebox protects the entire network from intrusions, phishing attempts, malware, and ransomware by using cloud and virtual firewalls, AI-powered malware protection, and enhanced network visibility.

    WatchGuard Firebox Features

    WatchGuard Firebox has many valuable key features, including:

    • Policy management
    • Strong security
    • High performance
    • Network configuration for multiple clients
    • Built-in SD-WAN
    • Application control
    • Threat detection and response
    • Network discovery
    • Intuitive interface

    WatchGuard Firebox Benefits

    Some of the benefits of using WatchGuard Firebox include:

    • IT administrators can create and implement policies for content filtering, VPNs, and network inspections.
    • The solution is easy to set up, manage, and maintain.

    Reviews from Real Users

    Below are some reviews and helpful feedback written by WatchGuard Firebox users.

    PeerSpot user Kelly C., IT Manager at a hospitality company, mentions, “One of the most valuable features is the Gateway AntiVirus. We scan all traffic as it's coming through. We also use spamBlocker to scrub spam. We use content filtering, which is critical in any corporate environment to make sure that people don't surf things they're not supposed to. WatchGuard has a very easy VPN and branch office VPN setup, so we use those pretty extensively too.It's very easy to use. In terms of performance, WatchGuard has always worked well for us. Regarding the reporting, I was in the Dimension server earlier today. It's very powerful. I like it. And the management features are easy to use. I like the fact that I can open up the System Manager client or I can just do it through the web if I'm making a quick change.”

    A Director of Information Technology at a retailer says, “Among the most valuable features is the ease of use — love the interface — of both the web interface and of the WatchGuard System Manager. It's a stable platform. The devices are pretty rock-solid.”

    Jason M., IT Director at a healthcare company, explains, “The policy monitoring and allowing different traffic flows are the most useful features for us; regulating which traffic comes in and out. In terms of the throughput and performance, we don't have a problem or any bottleneck there. We downgraded the size of our appliance because we're a small facility, and what we had before was actually too big. The one we are now going with seems to be doing a great job.” He also adds, “The management feature is pretty nice.”

    Steve R., President and Owner at Peak Communication Systems, Inc., comments, "It saves us time in the respect that we now have the template built for it so we can get in and get it done. We've had much less problems supporting Voice over IP technologies from different companies. Because our client base has grown over the years, we're probably saving 20 to 30 man-hours a month now that we've got this on a good stable level."

    Offer
    Learn more about Cisco Firepower NGFW Firewall
    Learn more about pfSense
    Learn more about WatchGuard Firebox
    Sample Customers
    Rackspace, The French Laundry, Downer Group, Lewisville School District, Shawnee Mission School District, Lower Austria Firefighters Administration, Oxford Hospital, SugarCreek, Westfield
    Nerds On Site Inc., RKC Development Inc., Expertech, Fisher's Technology, Ncisive, Consulting, CPURX, Vaughn's Computer House Calls, Imeretech LLC, Digital Crisis, Carolina Digital Phone, Technigogo Technology Services, The Simple Solution, SwiftecITInc, Rocky Mountain Tech Team, Free Range Geeks, Alaska Computer Geeks, Lark Information Technology, Renaissance Systems Inc., Cutting Edge Computers, Caretech LLC, GoVanguard, Network Touch Ltd, P.C. Solutions.Net, Vision Voice and Data Systems LLC, Montgomery Technologies, Techforce, Concero Networks, ASONInc, CPS Electronics and Consulting, Darkwire.net LLC, IT Specialists, MBS-Net Inc., VOICE1 LLC, Advantage Networking Inc., Powerhouse Systems, Doxa Multimedia Inc., Pro Computer Service, Virtual IT Services, A&J Computers Inc., Envision IT LLC, CommunicaONE Inc., Bone Computer Inc., Amax Engineering Corporation, QPG Ltd. Co., IT 101 Inc., Perfect Cloud Solutions, Applied Technology Group Inc., The Digital Sun Group LLC, Firespring
    Ellips, Diecutstickers.com, Clarke Energy, NCR, Wrest Park, Homeslice Pizza, Fortessa Tableware Solutions, The Phoenix Residence
    Top Industries
    REVIEWERS
    Comms Service Provider19%
    Financial Services Firm17%
    Government13%
    Manufacturing Company6%
    VISITORS READING REVIEWS
    Comms Service Provider28%
    Computer Software Company21%
    Government7%
    Manufacturing Company4%
    REVIEWERS
    University12%
    Comms Service Provider10%
    Marketing Services Firm10%
    Energy/Utilities Company6%
    VISITORS READING REVIEWS
    Comms Service Provider40%
    Computer Software Company15%
    Government7%
    Educational Organization4%
    REVIEWERS
    Manufacturing Company16%
    Construction Company14%
    Computer Software Company8%
    Healthcare Company8%
    VISITORS READING REVIEWS
    Comms Service Provider31%
    Computer Software Company17%
    Government7%
    Wholesaler/Distributor5%
    Company Size
    REVIEWERS
    Small Business40%
    Midsize Enterprise26%
    Large Enterprise34%
    VISITORS READING REVIEWS
    Small Business26%
    Midsize Enterprise20%
    Large Enterprise55%
    REVIEWERS
    Small Business70%
    Midsize Enterprise17%
    Large Enterprise13%
    VISITORS READING REVIEWS
    Small Business27%
    Midsize Enterprise24%
    Large Enterprise48%
    REVIEWERS
    Small Business65%
    Midsize Enterprise24%
    Large Enterprise11%
    VISITORS READING REVIEWS
    Small Business33%
    Midsize Enterprise24%
    Large Enterprise43%
    Buyer's Guide
    WatchGuard Firebox vs. pfSense
    March 2020
    Find out what your peers are saying about WatchGuard Firebox vs. pfSense and other solutions. Updated: March 2020.
    609,272 professionals have used our research since 2012.

    pfSense is ranked 3rd in Firewalls with 61 reviews while WatchGuard Firebox is ranked 3rd in Unified Threat Management (UTM) with 21 reviews. pfSense is rated 8.4, while WatchGuard Firebox is rated 8.4. The top reviewer of pfSense writes "Feature-rich, well documented, and there is good support available online". On the other hand, the top reviewer of WatchGuard Firebox writes "Competent, basic front-end; the ports that I have assigned appear to be unattainable to outsiders". pfSense is most compared with OPNsense, Fortinet FortiGate, Sophos XG, Untangle NG Firewall and Zyxel Unified Security Gateway, whereas WatchGuard Firebox is most compared with Fortinet FortiGate, Sophos XG, Meraki MX, Cisco ASA Firewall and Untangle NG Firewall. See our WatchGuard Firebox vs. pfSense report.

    We monitor all Firewalls reviews to prevent fraudulent reviews and keep review quality high. We do not post reviews by company employees or direct competitors. We validate each review for authenticity via cross-reference with LinkedIn, and personal follow-up with the reviewer when necessary.