Guides - Comparing Cloud Firewalls to Linux Firewall Software
A free cloud-based firewall service that can be used to secure any Linode Compute Instance, allowing network traffic only on the specified ports, protocols, and IP addresses.
With the addition of Linode’s Cloud Firewall solution, there are now two primary ways to control network traffic on a Linode Compute Instance: through a Cloud Firewall or locally installed firewall software. While both are robust solutions, there may be certain cases in which you choose to use one over the other. More often than not, both solutions should be used in tandem.
Linode’s free Cloud Firewall service is a powerful firewall solution that operates between your Linode services and the Internet. It provides an easy to use interface for filtering out unwanted network traffic. Through this service, you can create, configure, and add stateful network-based firewalls to any Linode Compute Instance.
- Cost: Free
- Interface: Cloud Manager (graphic user interface), the Linode CLI (command-line interface), and the Linode API (application programming interface).
- Ease of use: Relatively easy to configure using tools Linode customers may already be familiar with.
- Advanced configurability: Supports many common firewall rules, but does not support all configuration options available on sofware-based solutions like nftables.
- Ideal use cases:
- Users wanting to conveniently configure firewalls using familiar Linode tooling.
- Cascading rules over multiple servers simultaneously.
- Automatically generating rules through software compatible with the Linode API (such as integrating directly with your existing custom software)
(Including nftables, iptables, ufw, and firewalld)
The standard firewall software available on most modern Linux distributions is nftables, which replaces the older iptables software. Both of these utilities are packet filtering frameworks that integrate with the Linux kernel. These software solutions are configured through the command line. Their syntax is quite different from one another and formulating rules can be complicated for beginners. To make these utilities more user friendly, many distributions employ an easy to use front-end tool. These include UFW (Uncomplicated Firewall) on Ubuntu and Debian and firewalld on CentOS and RHEL derivatives.
- Cost: Free
- Interface: Command-line interface tools
- Ease of use: More difficult since a command-line is required and rule syntax can be quite complex, especially when working directly with nftables or iptables.
- Advanced configurability: Offers more comprehensive configuration for complex rules.
- Ideal use cases:
- Users comfortable with both the command-line and the software’s syntax.
- Creating complex firewall rules.
- Automatically generating rules through software like fail2ban.
Deciding Which Option to Use
When deciding on which firewall solution to use, consider your unique needs and the requirements for your application.
Familiarity: A major reason you may decide to use one option over another is your own comfort level with the tools and interfaces need to configure each firewall. If you’re more familiar with Linode’s own tooling (such as the Cloud Manager or CLI), Cloud Firewalls may be easier for you to quickly configure. If you’re more familiar with nftables or front-end software like UFW, you may want to stick to your existing tools and workflow. Consider your entire team’s familiarity with the tooling, not just yours.
Configuration options: While each solution is quite robust, using nftables allows for the creation of the most complex rules and provides absolute control of the firewall. That said, Cloud Firewalls are generally easier to configure and can be applied to multiple Linode services. This allows you to quickly add or modify firewall rules across multiple Compute Instances simultaneously.
Automation possibilities: Some Linux software products already integrate directly with nftables and can automatically create firewall rules. Perhaps the most commonly used example of this is fail2ban, which can automatically create firewall rules to permanently or temporarily ban suspicious traffic. If you are configuring your own software, you may find it easier to integrate with the Linode API and use Cloud Firewalls instead of integrating directly with software-based firewalls.
Combining Both Solutions
While Cloud Firewalls and local firewall software are separate tools, they can often be used together to combine their strengths and create an even more powerful firewall solution.
Consider using Cloud Firewalls provide a line of defense before traffic even reaches your server. It’s very user friendly and can quickly cascade rules over multiple different Linode Compute Instances. Consider using Firewall software like nftables when you need to create complex rules and want to integrate your firewall with existing software like fail2ban.
NoteWhen using both solutions together, consider when each rule will be processed on incoming and outgoing traffic. For inbound traffic, Cloud Firewall rules are processed first. For outbound traffic, local firewall rules are processed first.
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