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Kharmela Mindanao

By: Kharmela Mindanao on June 7th, 2023

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Virtual Firewalls: 5 Pros & Cons Before Buying

Cybersecurity

Getting sticker shock at cybersecurity prices and looking into ways to keep spending low?  

As a managed IT company with over 20 years of experience in the cybersecurity field, we know how crucial it is to keep IT costs at a reasonable level. Which is why, in certain situations, we’ve recommended virtual firewalls instead of physical firewalls for our clients.  

However, like any piece of technology, virtual firewalls have their pros and cons.  

In this article, Ed Griffin (ITS Partner and Cybersecurity Expert) will explain the advantages and disadvantages of using virtual firewalls. This will help you make an informed decision about whether they're right for your business.  

firewalls

Pros of Virtual Firewalls 

Here’s a list of the advantages of a virtual firewall: 

1. Cost-effective 

One of the main advantages of virtual firewalls is that they are typically more cost-effective than physical firewalls.  

“It has a lower entry cost,” Griffin said. “The licensing is lower than an equivalently powered physical firewall.” 

Also, virtual firewalls are generally easier and cheaper to maintain than physical firewalls since they don't require any physical maintenance. 

2. Scalable 

Another advantage of virtual firewalls is that they are highly scalable.  

“Because you're dealing with the software layer, you don't have to worry about the hardware constraints,” Griffin explained.  

As your business grows, you can easily add additional virtual firewalls to protect your expanding network. This makes virtual firewalls an ideal solution for businesses that are looking to scale their network security solutions. 

3. Flexible 

Virtual firewalls are highly flexible and can be customized to meet the specific needs of your business.  

For example, you can create custom policies and rules to control access to your network, which can help prevent unauthorized access and protect against cyber attacks. Additionally, virtual firewalls can be integrated with other security solutions, such as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and security information and event management (SIEM) solutions. 

4. Allows centralized management 

Virtual firewalls are typically managed through a centralized console, which makes it easier to manage and monitor your network security.  

This can save you time and resources since you don't have to manage each virtual firewall separately. It also ensures your network security policies are consistent across your entire network.

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Cons of Virtual Firewalls 

While virtual firewalls seem highly useful, there are still disadvantages of using them for your business. 

1. May impact network performance 

One potential disadvantage of virtual firewalls is that they may impact network performance. Virtual firewalls consume processing power and memory resources, which can slow down your network.  

However, this can be mitigated by choosing a virtual firewall that is specifically designed for high-performance environments. 

2. Can introduce security risks 

Virtual firewalls can introduce security risks if they're not configured properly. For example, if you don't properly configure your virtual firewall policies, you could inadvertently allow unauthorized access to your network. 

Additionally, virtual firewalls can be vulnerable to cyber attacks if they're not properly secured. 

3. Pricing fluctuations 

With a physical firewall, once it's deployed you don’t need to worry about how much data is going in or out. However, virtual firewalls often work via consumption models. You pay based on:  

  • How much network bandwidth you consume 
  • How much storage you have 
  • How much compute power you consume 

Therefore, pricing predictability is much more volatile. This can be solved by having a solid grasp on the amount of data your firewall needs to filter through.  

4. Complexity 

Virtual firewalls can be complex to set up and configure, especially if you're not familiar with network security. This can make it difficult for small businesses or businesses without dedicated IT staff to implement a virtual firewall solution. 

it technicians inspecting a data server

5. Constrained functionality of the cloud environment 

With virtual firewalls and virtual appliances, the functionality is going to be constrained by the cloud environment. Griffin further explained:  

“If a physical firewall loses its configuration or gets into a hard fail state, you take a paperclip, put it into the reset button hole and you reset it and you start over, right? You import a last known good backup and you're good.” 

But a virtual firewall isn’t as simple. There isn’t a reset button, so it's more difficult to gracefully recover from a failure of a virtual appliance.  

“So you might actually have to go through and redeploy it,” Griffin said. “You can still apply a configuration file, but you know having to recreate a virtual appliance is, you know, it's a little bit more heavyweight than just pushing a reset button.” 

Related reading: Do you still need a firewall even if your data is located remotely? 

Pros and Cons of Virtual Firewalls: A Quick Look 

PROS OF VIRTUAL FIREWALLS 

CONS OF VIRTUAL FIREWALLS 

Cost-effective 

Impacts network performance 

Scalable 

Introduces security risks 

Flexible 

Pricing fluctuations 

Allows centralized management 

Complex set-up 

 

Constrained functionality 

Need a virtual firewall for your business? 

So, with all the pros and cons of firewalls, is it really something you need? 

According to Griffin, there are a lot of businesses that think they don’t need a firewall, but actually do.  

“We often find that the cloud environments [of new clients] basically just have the equivalent of a router in place. So they don't actually have any protections.”  

A firewall - whether virtual or physical - is going to give your security team an extra layer of access control. The ability to implement network translation policies, geo IP protection, botnet protection, SSL and TLS inspection, and more, helps immensely with keeping your network safe.  

Overall, virtual firewalls can be a cost-effective and scalable solution for network security. 

If you're considering implementing a virtual firewall solution for your business, it's important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully. 

As an IT support provider with extensive experience setting up firewalls for all kinds of companies, it's important to work with a knowledgeable IT professional to ensure that your virtual firewall is configured properly and that your network is secure. Take our free network assessment to identify the vulnerabilities in your system:

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To continue your research about firewalls, check out the following articles: