What is Unified Threat Management (UTM)?

Instructor: Luis Cruz

Luis is an IT executive with over 18 years of experience and has a master's degree in Management Information Systems.

Unified Threat Management is an evolutionary step in firewall and network security technology. It helps to increase network security by making it easier and less costly. We'll learn about what it is and its benefits in this lesson.

It's All about Efficiency

Good morning! Today is your son's birthday party. You get in your car and drive to the office supply store and pick up some ink for the printer. You need to print a birthday banner. Then you go to the hardware store for some colored light bulbs, then to the grocery store for chips and soda, and finally the party supply store for balloons, plates, and cups. Don't forget the toy store for your son's birthday surprise! Then you are off to the bakery for a cake and pastries.

Four hours later, you make one last stop at the pharmacy for some ibuprofen, as you're going to need it after today. You get home exhausted. Your sister helps you bring things in to the house and asks one simple question. Why didn't you just go to Walmart?

Unified Threat Management (UTM) is the Walmart of Network Security. Just as super stores provide a single location to get most of your errands done, UTM systems provide a single all-inclusive security platform that make implementing and managing network security an easier and more efficient process. It can be considered an evolution to the traditional firewall system.

Network Security before UTM

Traditional network security systems are purpose-built. Because there are dozens of types of threats to your organization's network, companies had to purchase one or more of each type of system to ensure the adequate protection of their network and data. Each time a specific system was purchased, the IT team would have to unbox and install the equipment in the data center. As more sophisticated types of threats from hackers and criminals emerged, new types of security platforms came into the market. In fact it was not uncommon for a midsize company to have one or two dozen types of security systems installed. This required space, cooling, electricity, additional network equipment, and specially training IT staff. It created a financial and administrative burden for organizations.

Example of Traditional Network Security
Example of Traditional Network Security

UTM Enters the Scene

To address this issue, UTM systems came on the scene and integrated multiple types of security systems into a single platform. The types of network security system integrated included firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, anti-malware, web content filtering, VPN, data loss prevention, email security and other types of security systems. This greatly simplified the management and administration of these security systems because they were integrated in an all-in-one management interface. The UTM system was a single piece of hardware which means that there was the additional added value of less spending on cooling, electricity, and less space required in the data center.

Furthermore, an integrated network security system, such as a UTM, makes administration and management of network security a more efficient and streamlined process. Where with traditional systems, IT security staff had to be trained individually on each system, with a UTM only training for a single system is required. Because of this efficiency, less IT staff may be needed to manage the network security.

Example of UTM Firewall
Example of UTM Firewall

UTM systems have supplanted the traditional firewall in network security. If one were to look into purchasing a UTM system, they would look to the firewall market for these systems. Firewall manufactures have embraced this change and now make firewall systems with more processing power. The more powerful hardware systems support the added UTM functionality mentioned above. Most common enterprise firewall manufactures such as, FortiNet, Cisco, Dell SonicWall, Sophos, and Barracuda, exclusively sell UTM-type firewalls. In today's enterprise network security market it is difficult to find the traditional firewall that strictly does rule-based access control.

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