Unified Threat Management vs. Next Generation Firewalls, which is a better investment for SMBs?

Unified Threat Management vs. Next Generation Firewalls
Unified Threat Management vs. Next Generation Firewalls

First of all, what is the difference between a Unified Threat Management (UTM) and Next Generation Firewalls (NGFWs)? Unified Threat Management (UTM) is the name given to security appliances that integrate multiple security features into a single appliance. UTM security appliances combine firewall, gateway anti-virus, VPN, load balancing, content filtering, intrusion detection, and intrusion prevention capabilities into a single platform. The idea behind this type of technology is to give users a single interface from which to manage and operate security policy. On the other hand, NGFWs is the evolution of the current firewall technology to include layer 7 filtering capabilities. A NGFW is also an integrated platform that combines traditional firewall capabilities with other functionalities such as application firewalling using deep packet inspection, intrusion prevention, SSL management, and so on.

As you can see, both UTM and NGFW are quite similar in functionality. Usually, the size of the enterprise determines whether to invest in UTMs or NGFWs. From a marketing perspective, large corporations typically deploy NGFWs into their environments while SMBs deploy UTMs in their environments. Large enterprises are very much concerned with speed and throughput of their systems. NGFWs are able to offer this because they don’t turn on as many security features as UTMs do, and they are able to focus on core technology within the NGFW. UTMs become more important when resources are tight or scarce. Because UTMs integrate multiple features into its appliances, it is often cheaper for an SMB to invest in UTM vs. NGFWs. The problem however is that once several of the features are turned on, performance becomes an issue and the appliance can become a bottleneck.

Ultimately, determining whether to invest in a UTM or NGFW comes down to use cases. You have to scope out your business and decide what is most important to you. Building and testing out use cases specific to your organization will help make the decision as to whether to invest in a UTM or NGFW clearer. Factors such as appliance speed, throughput, budget, risk management should all be taken into consideration when planning.

About the Author

Olu Sosina
Olu Sosina is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) with over 12 years' experience in the Information Technology and Security field. He holds several certifications and accomplishments to include Project Management Professional (PMP), GIAC GSEC, ITIL, and an MBA from Kennesaw State University. He has developed a broad range of experience and expertise working with Fortune 500 companies that gives him deep insight into the inner workings of business and technology.

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