Unified Threat Management, most commonly referred to as the UTM, is a single security solution which provides multiple security functions at a single point in the network.
Traditionally, unified threat management included network security, email security and web security, all in a single solution. Recently, UTM got expanded to cover both wired and wireless networking security as well as other security functions, including the sandbox and cloud-based management.
Standard unified threat management solutions including functions like anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, content filtering, network firewall, intrusion detection and prevention systems, as well as remote routing, network address translation (NAT) and virtual private network (VPN) support.
Unified threat management solutions have become quite popular as these protect the network from different types of attacks that also target separate parts of the network. Since these are located in a single point in the network, with a single console, network administrators have a much easier job in covering multiple threats from a single point in the network.
On the other hand, the biggest weakness of unified threat management solutions is that single point of defense, as it also means there is a single point of failure, which is why these are usually implemented with a second, software-based, point that deals with security issues that got through the first UTM point.
There are plenty of UTM solutions to choose from which include some of the leading vendors like Cisco, IBM, Dell, Barracuda, Sophos, Fortinet, WatchGuard, and many more. According to SCAwardsEurope 2017 results, Sophos XG Firewall was deemed as the best UTM solution, slightly ahead of the other finalists like WatchGuard FireBox T70, Cisco Meraki MX, SonicWall TZ Series Wireless Series and others.
Future of unified threat management solutions
While next-generation firewall (NGFW) solutions cover most of the network security issues, these should not be compared to UTMs, as these usually also include firewall functionality but also add plenty of other features, including VPN, load balancing, data loss prevention (DLP), cloud-management, as well as standard features like anti-virus, anti-spam and content filtering.
Unified thread management or next-gen firewall?
The answer to this question usually depends on the actual need of the business and while next-gen firewall might be enough for some companies, unified threat management (UTM) brings a lot of features that might be suitable for certain businesses and their level of needed network security.