FwaaS vs. Traditional Firewalls: Breaking Down the Confusion

FwaaS vs. traditional firewalls

Now that most businesses have migrated to cloud infrastructure, the potential attack surface for their data is larger than it’s ever been. 

To combat this problem, you need a firewall.

However, it’s important to evaluate your organization’s needs when choosing between:

  • Traditional firewall, which can help protect your network
  • Firewall as a Service (FwaaS), which protects your cloud-based web applications as well as your local network and devices

Continue reading for a breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of each firewall. 

Quick Takeaways

  • FwaaS vs. Traditional Firewall: The traditional firewall blocks cyber threats from accessing your data and local network. FwaaS has the same goal, but it is offered as a cloud-based service rather than a static piece of software or hardware that you install and manage yourself.
  • Cost Comparison: While a traditional firewall has fewer recurring costs than FwaaS, it requires more significant infrastructure investments. FwaaS comes with a monthly fee, but its costs are predictable, and the total costs are often lower over time.
  • Benefits of Expertise: Although you have complete and total control over a traditional firewall, keeping it current can be challenging. Any configuration mistake could result in an attack, and there aren’t any failures if you don’t build them yourself. In contrast, FwaaS is managed by experts who specialize in firewalls. You don’t have the same control over the firewall, but FwaaS requires less of your time and may provide significantly improved security. 

What Is a Traditional Firewall?

A traditional firewall protects applications and networks from malicious traffic. Typically, a firewall is software installed on a machine, and security professionals add security policies and rules to it based on threat intelligence and attack patterns.

Illegitimate traffic usually behaves differently than legitimate network traffic, and with predetermined rules, firewalls can detect unusual activity and block it without impeding legitimate traffic. 

What Is FwaaS?

Firewall as a Service (FwaaS) is a cloud-based firewall solution that acts like a traditional firewall. Instead of being installed on a physical device, it runs on a cloud server and filters outgoing network traffic remotely.

This is important if you have a hybrid or cloud infrastructure. Because a traditional firewall installed on one device or network doesn’t cover the multitude of potential devices that could be accessing your data at any given time.

It’s not equipped to effectively protect your software. In contrast, FwaaS covers all potential access points and can be controlled from a central location. 

Traditional Firewall vs. FwaaS

Here are the biggest differences between traditional firewalls and FwaaS.

Traditional FirewallFirewall as a Service (FWaaS)
Deployment and InfrastructureRequires physical or virtual appliance setupCloud-based deployment, no on-site hardware needed
Scalability and FlexibilityLimited scalability, requires hardware upgradesHighly scalable, adapts to changing needs
Management and MaintenanceRequires in-house IT team for setup, configuration, and maintenanceProvider handles most management and maintenance
Cost StructureUpfront cost for hardware, software licenses, and ongoing maintenancePredictable monthly fees
Access ControlSuitable for on-premises networksIdeal for cloud-based environments and remote access
Integration, Compatibility, and VisibilityLimited visibility in multi-site or cloud environmentsOffers centralized management and improved visibility across the network

Deployment and Infrastructure

With a traditional firewall, your network is secured by software and hardware that are set up to protect your network from a wide range of outgoing traffic.

Monitor, Log, and Block

Using rules and URL filtering, the firewall can monitor, log, and block activity.

This works well for preventing attackers from accessing your environment, but protection is limited as firewalls are extremely complex and can be difficult to maintain effectively.

FwaaS, on the other hand, relies on third-party teams to deploy and monitor the firewall. These teams leverage their expertise to deliver packet inspection, intrusion detection, improved network control, and strong access management in addition to a standard firewall’s basic traffic-blocking capabilities.

Outsourced Firewall

The infrastructure within an organization is significantly lower because the firewall has been outsourced.

The protection can be deployed without demanding substantial infrastructure investment. 

Scalability and Flexibility

FwaaS is more flexible than a traditional firewall as it relies on cloud infrastructure and can be deployed anywhere at any time. Your business scales up or down as needed, and because FwaaS is hosted by a provider, you will not have to change anything about your infrastructure.

The FwaaS provider can offer additional (or fewer) resources to assist with scaling.

While this will likely increase your monthly bill, it costs much less than building out more infrastructure to keep up with your organization’s growth.

Management and Maintenance

Traditional firewalls are  your own creation, which means you and your security team are responsible for:

  • Setup
  • Configuration
  • Maintenance

This also means you have total control of the rules that are in place and the traffic that the firewall permits or blocks.

FwaaS still offers some control, including the ability to make or fine-tune rules and view (and respond to) access anomalies, much of the daily management is left to the provider. For many organizations, this is a net benefit. The provider takes care of managing the firewall, enforcing your access control rules, and assembling all of the access data; and you respond to anomalies and potential threats as needed.

Most of the time, this works seamlessly, but there can be some issues if something disrupts your provider’s operations, which is not an issue with a traditional firewall. 

Cost Structure

FwaaS comes with a recurring fee, typically billed monthly. This means you’ll have predictable costs, but they may seem high.

However, when you compare the monthly costs over a few years to the initial investment, hardware replacement, and software licensing fees that a traditional firewall requires, you may find that FwaaS costs less to maintain. 

Access Control

If you have a very small business and do not utilize the cloud for data storage, you likely don’t need a FwaaS cloud-based solution. FwaaS is best for organizations that have multiple devices in multiple places accessing the cloud. 

However, if your business has migrated to or was built on cloud platforms, you need security solutions that can account for all of the challenges endemic to cloud-based infrastructure.

Especially for businesses that use the cloud for hosting web applications or storing data that needs to be accessed remotely, protecting against unauthorized access is essential. A good FwaaS solution will provide:

  • User access
  • Activity monitoring
  • Centralized management
  • Granular control 

Integration, Compatibility, and Visibility

Relying on traditional firewalls works best for environments that are contained within a single office space. However, for environments with off-premises infrastructure and cloud integration, FwaaS provides a more comprehensive solution and improves visibility within the ecosystem.

Individual firewalls protecting multiple devices and networks create information silos, but FwaaS integrates all of the data from all access points and presents it in a centralized location. 

Create a Bulletproof Security Strategy with Perimeter 81

If you’re using the cloud for your business operations, a FwaaS offers more security and efficiency than a traditional firewall, and it is likely the better solution for both your cloud assets and your on-premises infrastructure.

If you’re looking for a partner to help you manage and maintain your firewall rules, access control, and data security, Perimeter81 is here to help.

Reach out to us to get started today. 


What are the most common types of firewalls?
The most common types of firewalls are:

Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs): These advanced firewalls offer a variety of security features beyond basic packet filtering, such as intrusion prevention systems and deep packet inspection.
– Cloud-based firewalls (also known as cloud firewall services or FWaaS): These firewalls are delivered through the cloud, eliminating the need for physical hardware on-site.
Hardware firewalls: These are physical appliances that sit between your network and the internet, filtering traffic at the hardware level.
What are the benefits of FwaaS?
For a predictable monthly fee, FwaaS tightens security around your entire environment, provides visibility into your users’ activity, helps you control access, and performs the bad traffic blocking of a traditional firewall.
What is the main disadvantage of traditional firewalls?
Traditional firewalls struggle to protect cloud-dependent security environments. Because the infrastructure and data are not protected by the cloud service providers, and traditional firewalls only cover the devices and networks directly connected to them, there is a gap in protection that can be exploited. 
Does FWaaS eliminate appliances?
Organizations that migrate to FwaaS and eliminate their traditional firewalls will no longer need on-premises firewall infrastructure. 
What is the difference between a firewall as a service and NGFW?
Firewall as a Service (FwaaS) provides advanced firewall and monitoring solutions via the cloud. NGFW is a traditional firewall with advanced features that can be effective, but it lacks the adaptability and sophistication of FwaaS. 

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