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The best firewall monitoring tools can quickly detect problems, recommend actionable remediation steps, provide proactive alerts and validate best practices. While network performance monitoring tools are a core component of network infrastructure, they are not designed for managing your security infrastructure. 

Eight reasons why network performance monitoring tools may not be good enough for firewalls:

1. Too many undetected firewall issues

It is a challenge when you find out about a service outage from a user. Even more so when that user is the big boss. Detecting issues before they get noticed by users is expected. Unfortunately, many firewall issues and outages are undetected regardless of the number of monitoring tools you have in your environment. 

Traditional network performance monitoring tools leverage SNMP polling to retrieve metrics from devices. While routers and switches typically have comprehensive management information base (MIB) instrumentation, it is not always the case with security devices. For example, a Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) peer down event can translate to loss of connectivity to the Internet. The challenge is that there is no predefined object identifier for BGP state for Check Point secure gateways. As a result, such a high impact event is undetected by network performance monitoring tools. 

2. Firewalls have unique redundancy requirements

Unlike switches and routers, firewalls do not use routing protocols such as Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP) and Gateway Load Balancing Protocol (GLBP) for redundancy. Instead, they are deployed in a High Availability (HA) clustered environment. Many outages can be traced to configuration not synchronized among the active, standby and backup firewalls. For example, you do not have the same static routes, policy-based routing rules, etc. causing outages.  

The other side effect of HA is that the passive and backup firewalls are in standby mode. For example, the standby unit interfaces are in inactive states by design. Network performance monitoring tools are not aware of the HA state, they end up generating a lot of false positives. 

3. More than just monitoring the device

Ensuring your security infrastructure is operating as intended requires more than just monitoring the device. Security devices have dependency on many services; both internal and external. For example, a firewall requires continuous access to the on-premise Active Directory for identity awareness to make the forwarding decision. External services are equally important. This can simply be requiring access to an external server hosting an external dynamic list of IP addresses, URLs, domains, etc. The firewalls dynamically import these objects at a regular interval for policy enforcement. Or this can be sophisticated threat intelligence data feeds providing updated information about potential sources of attack. Whatever that might be, firewalls need dynamic updates from many sources. Monitoring the connection to these critical services is essential. 

4. The new tablestake: from reactive to proactive

Network performance monitoring tools are reactive in nature. Interesting finding from the Uptime’s 2021 annual survey reports that 76% of outages can be avoided if IT operations teams receive an advanced notice with respect to common issues stemming from hidden configuration skew, forgotten ongoing maintenance, or a combination of lack of adherence to vendor, industry and HA best practices. For example, if the accelerated path of the firewall is disabled, you want to immediately take action before services are impacted. Choosing the right tool with proactive capabilities is key to minimizing outages.

5. The need for actionable next steps

When problems occur, network performance monitoring tools report the issues and stop there. With the rising cybersecurity talent shortage impacting a growing number of organizations, you want all the help you can get. Ideally, your monitoring tool should offer a way to remediate the problem so you can quickly restore services. This also serves as a great way to train the IT operations teams and a way to advance their expertise and knowledge on the job. 

6. Best practices for proactive monitoring

To ensure your firewall is working optimally, it starts with proper configuration based on best practices. This is a great step towards proactive monitoring. Your monitoring tool should be extended to continuously assess devices for alignment with configuration recommendations from vendors and seasoned security practitioners.

7. Beyond monitoring… automation the new trend

Given the growing cybersecurity skills gap, security engineers typically do not have enough time to attend to strategic work. One way to tackle this shortcoming is to accelerate the adoption of network automation. Automating mundane tasks such as ongoing maintenance, regulatory compliance and security vulnerabilities is a great way to offload these activities to an automated system. Thus resulting in precious security engineers focusing on higher order tasks. 

8. Automated troubleshooting

When an issue is detected, what if a tool can automatically apply device-specific domain knowledge to the problem and perform analysis to accelerate troubleshooting. The tool can also collect pertinent information while the problem is happening so an accurate diagnosis is possible. The ability to automatically investigate a problem is truly taking automation to the next level. 

Look beyond Network Performance Monitoring Tools

Monitoring is only one capability of most IT environments, albeit an important one. While network performance monitoring tools are a core component of network infrastructure, you need to shift from reactive to proactive strategies. If network automation is not on your radar, you should reconsider that. Not only does network automation improve efficiency and ensure consistency in operations teams, it can help with the knowledge skills gap many organizations are experiencing. Ultimately, network automation such as auto triage will improve the meantime to recovery (MTTR) and help you succeed in the digital economy. 

Indeni is more than just a firewall monitoring tool, it provides security infrastructure automation with unprecedented visibility. We’ve automated the world’s best practices to deliver predictive, prioritized, and actionable insights that help you prevent costly disruptions. If you are new to Indeni, we invite you to try out our automation capabilities, download a free trial today. 

BlueCat acquires Indeni to boost its industry-leading DNS, DHCP and IP address management platform to help customers proactively assess network health and prevent outages.