This question is one we get all the time both from prospects in the beginning stages of investigating cloud-delivered network security services as well as customers we have worked with for years. We never claim to be a “catch all” product. In fact, vendors who imply that their products or services are all you need to protect your network at the very least are wildly misinformed. Our goal is to create products that provide an Internet-wide foundation for your security stack. A foundation, that, when layered with other critical security controls, prevents attacks and malicious activity to your devices, no matter where they’re located.

To start, let’s be clear about the difference between firewalls and OpenDNS’s products. Firewall defenses react after an attack already has been launched. You may be thinking, “OK, even if my network is attacked, the firewall will stop it. So why the need to be proactive?” In today’s world, this line of thinking is downright risky because the velocity and volume of new attack tools and techniques enable some malicious activity to go undetected for minutes or even months. While we can stop malicious Internet connections before they occur (at the DNS layer), a firewall must scan each of these connections. NGFWs do not offer protection to off-network devices without always keeping a VPN on, which adds latency. When it comes to protecting your end users working outside of your perimeter, OpenDNS is much faster, safer, and more effective.

In a recent InfoWorld article, J. Peter Bruzzese commented, “Signature-based products like firewall and endpoint defenses are critical to blocking or containing phishing attacks. But you might be missing a crucial element at a different layer of your security defenses: OpenDNS. The next layer to your security solution should be focused at the DNS level.” Read the full article here to better understand why now more than ever people are integrating solutions at the DNS level into their security stack.

Using a layered approach to security is critical as network perimeters continue to erode and  confidential information is accessed through cloud services on public WiFi networks. The best way to maintain a strong security posture is by integrating OpenDNS with an NGFW. Our service does not include an intrusion prevention system, so if you’ve deployed only OpenDNS, then your system could be vulnerable to malformed packets or DoS (denial of service) attacks. We recommend combining OpenDNS with a NGFW as critical elements in your layered security solution, as opposed to simply adopting one or the other.

What do some of the industry’s leading professionals say about a layered approach to security? In order to ensure robust protection for his company, an industry expert and OpenDNS customer working for a large legal firm recognized the necessity of the detection capabilities offered by the combination of a NGFW and OpenDNS. He said, “Our philosophy on all of our security controls is to diversify the technologies because we figure everyone does a pretty good job of security but no one does it perfectly, and by layering a diverse stack together, we benefit from the detection capabilities of each. OpenDNS was something we could put on our laptops with the roaming client so that we still have that layer of protection outside of our perimeter.”

In short, don’t get rid of your firewall. Additionally, don’t think that your firewall is enough to secure your network. Attackers unfortunately are just as innovative as we are, so it’s imperative to cover your bases and understand that one product, feature, or service will never be infallible on its own. You can read about the difference between OpenDNS and NGFW, as well as the importance of having both, in this solution brief.

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