FWAAS vs SWG: Which One’s Best for You?


Choosing the right security solution is crucial for your business. Should you opt for the robust protection of Firewall as a Service (FWAAS) or the comprehensive defense of Secure Web Gateway (SWG)? This in-depth comparison will help you make an informed decision tailored to your business’s unique security needs. 

Explore the key differences and advantages of these two solutions and understand how they align with your organization’s goals. To dive even deeper into the world of cybersecurity, you can also check out our glossary entry on Firewall-as-a-Service to gain a better grasp of this critical concept.

What is FWAAS?

Firewall as a Service (FWaaS) represents an innovative network security technology centered around cloud-based firewalls. FWaaS solutions provide cutting-edge capabilities like advanced Layer 7 and next-generation firewall (NGFW) features, encompassing critical components such as access controls, URL filtering, advanced threat prevention, intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and DNS security. 

What is an SWG?

A Secure Web Gateway (SWG) is a network security technology, available in both on-premises and cloud-delivered configurations, dedicated to filtering and regulating internet traffic in alignment with corporate and regulatory policies. The core functionality of an SWG is to sit between users and the vast expanse of the internet, effectively functioning as a gatekeeper, and ensuring that internet activities conform to established security and usage guidelines.

How Does an SWG Work?

By inspecting web content, enforcing security policies, and detecting malicious activities, SWGs protect organizations from a wide range of cyber threats while maintaining secure and productive internet access. Here’s how:

  • Gateway Functionality: SWGs stand as gateways between user devices and the internet.
  • User Authentication: They authenticate users, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access the web.
  • Request Inspection: SWGs meticulously examine outgoing web requests to ensure they comply with acceptable use policies.
  • Traffic Filtering: Incoming data is similarly scrutinized, creating a two-way defense mechanism.
  • Protection from Threats: SWGs protect users by blocking malicious web traffic and threats.
  • Data Leak Prevention: They safeguard organizations from data leaks, providing comprehensive online threat protection.

For a more comprehensive understanding of SWG and its role in network security, consult our glossary on Secure Web Gateway and explore the benefits of hybrid SWG solutions.

The Significance of SWGs

As cybercriminals constantly evolve their tactics, one alarming strategy involves concealing malicious code within seemingly legitimate websites. When users access these compromised sites, they unwittingly expose organizations to risk by leaking credentials and unleashing harmful code. Left undetected, such threats can have devastating consequences.

In this challenging environment, the absence of a robust security gateway significantly heightens the vulnerability of an organization’s digital assets. Without this vital defense, unauthorized access, data breaches, and business disruption become all too real, especially in the era of rampant phishing and ransomware attacks. 

Benefits of SWGs

SWGs provide robust web content filtering, application control, and threat detection capabilities, mitigating web-based threats and promoting compliance with corporate policies, among other benefits:

  1. Reduced Attack Surface: SWGs minimize potential attack vectors exploited by threat actors, thereby shrinking the external attack surface.
  1. Support for Digital Transformation: SWGs support organizations in their journey of digital transformation, facilitating transitions to digital, cloud, and remote work environments.
  1. Secure Connectivity for Remote Workers: They provide remote workers with secure access to the internet, SaaS applications, and essential online resources.
  1. Protection for Critical Internet Connectivity: SWGs safeguard internet connectivity critical for IT operations, including servers and headless devices.
  1. Strengthened Cybersecurity: By protecting critical data and operations connected to the web, SWGs reinforce an organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

Ensuring Security for Remote Workers and Branch Offices with SWGs

Secure Web Gateways (SWGs) play a critical role in securing remote workers and branch offices, particularly in a cloud-delivered model that acts as the intermediary between dispersed users and the vast internet landscape. This approach eliminates the need to backhaul web traffic from branch offices to distant data centers, ensuring efficient operations in today’s highly distributed networks. SWGs were traditionally deployed as on-premises web proxy appliances, but these hub-and-spoke architectures struggled to meet modern network demands.

Additionally, SWGs are invaluable in ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, especially in industries handling sensitive data. They facilitate traffic inspection to prevent data leakage and unauthorized sharing, aiding compliance with regulations like GDPR in Europe.

SWGs offer granular control over application access and can be customized to meet specific industry or geo-specific regulations. Their regular updates ensure organizations can adapt quickly to evolving regulatory landscapes, enhancing cybersecurity and maintaining compliance with the latest requirements.

Discover more on what SWGs can do for remote work security here.

Features of SWGs

Secure Web Gateways (SWGs) offer a range of features designed to enhance cybersecurity and manage internet traffic effectively. These features include:

URL Filtering

URL filtering is a critical function within SWGs that enables organizations to control and restrict access to specific websites. It helps prevent users from accessing malicious or inappropriate content and ensures that internet usage adheres to the organization’s policies. SWGs use URL filtering to enforce acceptable internet use, safeguarding networks from potential threats and maintaining a productive online environment.

Application Control

SWGs offer robust application control capabilities, allowing organizations to manage and regulate the use of specific software applications and services. This feature ensures that employees use approved applications and helps prevent unauthorized or potentially risky software from compromising network security. By providing granular control over application access, SWGs empower organizations to strike a balance between productivity and security.


Antivirus functionality is a fundamental element of SWGs that scans web content for malicious software, including viruses, trojans, and other malware. It acts as a critical layer of defense by identifying and blocking potentially harmful files before they can infiltrate an organization’s network. SWGs with integrated antivirus capabilities play a pivotal role in shielding systems and data from online threats.

HTTPS Inspection

SWGs have the capability to decrypt and inspect encrypted traffic, ensuring that malicious content is not hidden within secure connections. By examining HTTPS traffic, SWGs help organizations identify and neutralize threats concealed within encrypted channels, enhancing overall network security.

Threat Prevention

SWGs employ a combination of techniques such as intrusion detection, behavioral analysis, and signature-based detection to identify and block threats in real time. This proactive approach to threat prevention safeguards organizations from evolving and sophisticated cyberattacks.

Data Loss Prevention

SWGs inspect outbound web traffic for potential data breaches, ensuring that confidential data does not leave the organization without proper authorization. This feature is particularly crucial for sectors that handle sensitive customer data and face strict regulatory requirements.

DNS Security

DNS (Domain Name System) security is integral to SWGs, as it ensures the integrity and availability of DNS services. SWGs protect against DNS-based attacks, including cache poisoning, distributed denial of service (DDoS), and domain hijacking. By securing the DNS infrastructure, SWGs play a crucial role in preventing cyber threats that can disrupt network operations and compromise data security.


Antimalware capabilities within SWGs provide real-time protection against malware, including viruses, spyware, and ransomware. They continuously monitor web traffic and files for signs of malicious software, quickly identifying and mitigating threats. Antimalware features are essential for ensuring a safe online environment and protecting systems from a wide range of malware threats.

Challenges of SWG Deployment

Deploying SWGs is a fundamental step in strengthening an organization’s cybersecurity posture. However, this process comes with its set of challenges that need to be effectively managed to ensure optimal protection and a seamless user experience. Let’s explore the common challenges associated with SWG deployment and how they can be addressed.

1. User Experience

One of the primary challenges in SWG deployment is maintaining a positive user experience while enforcing security policies. SWGs must strike a balance between security and performance, ensuring that users can access necessary resources without unnecessary delays. This challenge can be addressed through careful policy configuration, content caching, and load balancing to optimize the user experience without compromising security.

2. Functionality Complexity

The inherent complexity of SWG functionality can pose a challenge during deployment. Ensuring that all security features are correctly configured and integrated into the organization’s network can be a daunting task. To address this challenge, organizations should invest in robust training and expertise to effectively manage and optimize the full range of SWG capabilities. Additionally, leveraging centralized management and automation tools can simplify the deployment and ongoing management of SWGs.

3. Cyber Threats Complexity

Cyber threats are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated, adding complexity to SWG deployment. Keeping up with the ever-changing threat landscape requires continuous monitoring and updates to security policies.

To address this challenge, organizations should regularly update their SWGs with the latest threat intelligence and ensure that their security policies are adaptive and responsive to emerging threats. Collaborating with threat intelligence providers can also be beneficial in staying ahead of evolving cyber threats.

By effectively managing these challenges, organizations can harness the full potential of SWGs to enhance security and user experience, ultimately safeguarding their networks from a wide range of cyber threats.

Differences Between FWAAS and SWG

The lines between Secure Web Gateways (SWGs) and Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) can often appear blurred. Many SSE vendors now incorporate both SWG and FWaaS as integral components of their core SSE offerings, making it challenging for businesses to discern the distinct value propositions of these services.

The core dilemma arises from the fact that these vendors often have either a Secure Web Gateway or a Next-Gen Firewall as their primary security solution hosted in the cloud.

Some vendors have chosen to build upon their Next-Gen Firewall offerings by adding SWG functionality, enabling features like onboarding remote endpoints via explicit proxy (PAC) files.

Conversely, other vendors have opted to establish Secure Web Gateways as their core security solution and then enhance it with firewall capabilities to broaden their protocol and service scanning capabilities, incorporating additional security features such as Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS).

Protocol Support

Understanding the nuances between SWGs and FWaaS goes beyond their deployment models. Protocol support is a fundamental differentiator. While SWGs are tailored for inspecting web protocols like HTTP and are primarily designed for outbound traffic inspection, FWaaS boasts a broader range of protocol support, encompassing voice protocols like SIP, VOIP, and ACTIVE FTP. This expanded protocol support makes FWaaS a robust choice for organizations with diverse networking needs.

However, these distinctions do not end with protocol support alone. In terms of security features, FWaaS takes the lead by offering a rich array of security functionalities embedded within the firewall. These features are designed to protect against a wide range of cyber threats, including malware, phishing, and other malicious content.

FWaaS stands as a comprehensive security solution, whereas SWGs primarily focus on web traffic inspection.

Security Features

In terms of security features, FWaaS takes the lead by offering a rich array of security functionalities embedded within the firewall. These features are designed to protect against a wide range of cyber threats, including malware, phishing, and other malicious content. FWaaS stands as a comprehensive security solution, whereas SWGs primarily focus on web traffic inspection.

Security Level

When evaluating security levels, FWaaS provides a higher degree of security with its firewall-centric approach. The firewall, as a critical security component, helps protect the network from external threats and unauthorized access, offering an elevated level of security. SWGs, while valuable for web traffic inspection, may not offer the same level of comprehensive protection as FWaaS, especially against non-web-based threats.

End User Traffic Onboarding Method

The method of onboarding end-user traffic is another distinction between these services. FWaaS simplifies the onboarding process by integrating Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) as an inherent part of the core firewall functionality. This eliminates the need for additional components or VM installations. SWGs, on the other hand, may require more complex onboarding procedures, depending on the network’s requirements.


Both SWGs and FWaaS offer customization options, but the extent of customization may vary. Organizations can tailor their security policies according to their specific needs. FWaaS with SWG functionalities offers greater flexibility, allowing for a deeper level of customization in security controls, thanks to its combined capabilities.

Outgoing Traffic

Finally, while SWGs are primarily designed for outbound traffic inspection, FWaaS extends its protection to both incoming and outgoing traffic. This comprehensive approach ensures that organizations can safeguard their network from threats in both directions, providing a more thorough security posture.

In this context, it’s important to highlight that Secure Web Gateways are inherently designed for inspecting web protocols like HTTP and are primarily tailored for outbound traffic inspection. On the other hand, Firewall-as-a-Service, true to its name, is a cloud-hosted firewall solution delivered as a service.

Primary FunctionPrimarily designed for web traffic inspectionComprehensive security solution with a focus on firewall functionality
Protocol SupportTailored for web protocols like HTTP, primarily for outbound traffic inspectionOffers a broader range of protocol support, including voice protocols and more
Security FeaturesFocuses on web traffic inspection; may lack the depth of comprehensive security featuresOffers a rich array of embedded security functionalities, protecting against various cyber threats
Security LevelMay not provide the same level of comprehensive protection as FWaaS, especially against non-web-based threatsProvides a higher degree of security with a firewall-centric approach
End User Traffic OnboardingMay require more complex onboarding procedures, depending on network requirementsIntegrates Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) as part of the core firewall functionality, simplifying onboarding
CustomizationOffers customization options but may have limited flexibilityAllows for a deeper level of customization in security controls, thanks to combined capabilities
Outgoing TrafficPrimarily designed for outbound traffic inspectionExtends protection to both incoming and outgoing traffic, providing more thorough security posture

>>> Read our guide to explore the benefits and capabilities of FWaaS in more detail.

Do FWAAS and SWG Work Together?

Yes, Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) and Secure Web Gateways (SWGs) can work together synergistically to enhance an organization’s security posture. Both are vital components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. They complement each other by providing layers of defense and critical security functionalities, addressing specific aspects of cyber threat protection and network security.

Cyber Attack Protection

FWaaS and SWGs collaborate to fortify an organization’s defenses against a wide array of cyber threats. FWaaS serves as the first line of defense, acting as a network barrier to prevent unauthorized access and safeguarding against incoming threats, including intrusions and attacks.

Meanwhile, SWGs focus on inspecting web traffic, filtering out malicious content, and enforcing security policies to protect against threats originating from within the network or via web-based channels. The combination of these two security solutions creates a multi-layered approach that shields against both inbound and outbound threats, offering comprehensive cyber-attack protection.

Denial-of-Service Attack Protection

Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks can cripple an organization’s online operations, rendering services inaccessible. FWaaS plays a critical role in mitigating DoS attacks by actively monitoring network traffic and detecting anomalies. It can employ traffic management techniques to divert malicious traffic away from critical resources, ensuring that legitimate users continue to have access to services.

SWGs, on the other hand, contribute to DoS protection by filtering out malicious web traffic that may be part of a larger DoS attack. By detecting and blocking the sources of such attacks, SWGs help maintain uninterrupted access to web resources.

By integrating FWaaS and SWGs into their cybersecurity strategy, organizations establish a robust defense mechanism that not only guards against a broad spectrum of cyber threats but also ensures the availability and integrity of their online services, even in the face of denial-of-service attacks. This collaborative approach is key to maintaining a resilient and secure network environment.

How FWAAS and SWG are Used

FWaaS and SWGs are integral components of modern network security strategies, each serving specific use cases. Understanding how they are used is essential for organizations seeking to bolster their cybersecurity posture and ensure safe and productive internet access for their users. 

Some examples include:

Inspecting Branch Traffic

Organizations often need to ensure that network traffic from their branch offices is thoroughly inspected for potential security threats. In this use case, a combination of both SWG and FWaaS may be preferred. SWG plays a crucial role in scrutinizing web traffic for any malicious content or unauthorized access, while FWaaS complements this by safeguarding against network-level threats.

Together, they provide comprehensive security coverage, making sure that traffic originating from branch offices is thoroughly examined, ensuring a robust defense against a wide range of threats.

Inspecting Web Traffic from Remote Endpoints

When the primary concern is the inspection of web traffic from remote endpoints, SWG stands as the ideal solution. SWG is tailored for in-depth examination of web protocols, making it the go-to choice for safeguarding against web-based threats.

It efficiently filters out malicious content, enforces security policies, and ensures that all web traffic from remote endpoints is secure. Whether it’s preventing access to risky websites or blocking malicious downloads, SWG is the key component for inspecting web traffic originating from remote endpoints.

Inspecting All Traffic from Remote Endpoints

In scenarios where organizations need to scrutinize all traffic coming from remote endpoints, FWaaS is the primary choice. FWaaS extends its protection to cover a wide range of protocols and services, making it the ideal solution for comprehensive traffic inspection.

It serves as the network barrier, safeguarding against both web and non-web-based threats. FWaaS not only monitors and filters traffic but also enforces security policies and access controls, ensuring that all traffic from remote endpoints is thoroughly examined for any potential security risks.

ZTNA (Zero-Trust Network Access)

Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a modern approach to secure access, where trust is never assumed, and access is continuously verified. In this use case, both SWG and FWaaS can play integral roles. They ensure that ZTNA is implemented effectively, as they provide the necessary security controls and access management capabilities.

FWaaS, with its comprehensive security features, can facilitate secure access for remote users, ensuring that only authorized users can access network resources. SWG, on the other hand, enhances ZTNA by scrutinizing web traffic, adding an additional layer of security to the access process. Together, they enable organizations to implement a robust ZTNA strategy, enhancing security and access control.

Also, for more insights into cybersecurity and related topics, don’t miss our post on Firewall as a Service: Best Practices


What is the difference between SWG and WAF?
The main difference between a Secure Web Gateway (SWG) and a Web Application Firewall (WAF) lies in their primary functions. SWG focuses on inspecting and securing internet-bound traffic, filtering web content, and enforcing corporate and regulatory policies. It safeguards users from web-based threats, ensuring a secure internet experience.

On the other hand, a WAF is designed specifically to protect web applications from cyberattacks, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other application-layer attacks. It acts as a protective layer for web applications, monitoring and filtering incoming traffic to prevent vulnerabilities and attacks, making it a critical component for web application security.
What is the difference between SWG and CASB?
The key distinction between a Secure Web Gateway (SWG) and a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) is their primary focus. An SWG concentrates on securing internet-bound traffic, filtering web content, and enforcing security and compliance policies for users accessing the internet. It safeguards against web-based threats and controls web access.

In contrast, a CASB specializes in providing security and governance over the use of cloud services and applications, offering visibility into and control over data shared and stored in the cloud. CASBs protect against risks associated with cloud adoption, such as data leakage, unauthorized access, and compliance violations, making them a vital component for cloud security.
What is the difference between FWaaS and NGFW?
The key difference between Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) and Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) lies in their deployment and management models. FWaaS is a cloud-hosted firewall solution delivered as a service, providing flexibility and scalability without the need for on-premises hardware. It is typically managed and maintained by a third-party provider.

In contrast, an NGFW is a physical or virtual appliance that combines traditional firewall capabilities with advanced security features, such as intrusion prevention, deep packet inspection, and application control. NGFWs are typically deployed on the organization’s network and are managed in-house.

While both offer robust security, FWaaS is known for its cloud-centric approach, making it suitable for organizations seeking scalable and easily managed firewall solutions, while NGFWs provide more control and customization but require on-site management.