Cisco Umbrella is a suite of enterprise security packages ranging from a basic, feature-limited DNS filter to a sophisticated Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution. As good as the range is, many Cisco customers have sought a Cisco Umbrella alternative and made the switch to WebTitan Cloud. In this post, we explore why this is and explain some of the benefits of switching to WebTitan Cloud.
What is Cisco Umbrella?
To best explain what Cisco Umbrella is, it is a good idea to start with a little background information. Cisco Umbrella evolved from what was originally the free-to-use OpenDNS recursive DNS resolver. Launched in 2006, when many web filters only blocked Internet access by keyword, OpenDNS was seen as a more reliable way to prevent users accessing dangerous websites and harmful content.
As the demand for DNS filtering solutions grew, OpenDNS launched an advertisement-funded home filtering service – “Family Shield” – and a subscription-funded business filtering service – “OpenDNS Enterprise”. Optional add-ons were subsequently developed for Enterprise customers; and, in 2012, these were packaged together with the Enterprise web filter and relaunched as OpenDNS Umbrella.
In 2015, Cisco Systems Inc. acquired OpenDNS in a deal worth a reported $635 million and the following year OpenDNS Umbrella was rebranded as Cisco Umbrella. The Family Shield retained the OpenDNS name; but, since the acquisition, Cisco has increased the number of OpenDNS-branded services to four and now charges up to $20 per user per year for the most advanced service.
Cisco Umbrella DNS Filtering and Internet Security Packages for 2023
Soon after the acquisition of OpenDNS, Cisco broke open the Umbrella DNS filtering and Internet security package and started offering businesses the choice of three packages with increasing levels of capabilities – Umbrella Professional, Umbrella Insights, and Umbrella Platform. When Cisco entered the SASE market, the packages were again rebranded, and a fourth level added to the suite.
The table below is a snapshot of what each package offers – demonstrating how the levels of capabilities increases with each tier. It is important to note that this snapshot does not list the full range of capabilities per package. Indeed, the feature list for the top-of-the-range SIG Advantage package runs into five pages. Consequently, we discuss each plan in greater detail below.
DNS Essentials is a basic DNS filter that provides minimal protection against online threats. This version of Cisco Umbrella checks IP addresses against blacklists of known malicious websites and allows businesses to block access to certain types of web content by category (pornography, online shopping, gambling, social media, etc.).
Crucially, DNS Essentials lack SSL inspection. This means that if a user requests access to an encrypted website that is not yet known to be malicious or has not yet been categorized, the DNS filter will not be able to determine whether it is safe or not. More than 84% of phishing sites use SSL certification to trick victims into thinking they are genuine.
DNS Advantage provides a more comprehensive set of capabilities and importantly includes SSL inspection. This tier also supports blocking direct-to-IP traffic that bypass DNS filters such as Command and Control (C2) callbacks. However, to fully use this capability, you may also have to subscribe to the Umbrella roaming client or AnyConnect roaming module.
Overall, DNS Advantage provides a web filtering service similar to most commercial web filters – although sometimes lacking in granularity. For example, like most commercial web filters, DNS Advantage allows businesses to create custom block and allow lists – but only by domain, not by URL. Therefore, you would not be able to block access to (for example) the New York Times´ sports pages without blocking access to all New York Times pages.
The Secure Internet Gateway (SIG) Essentials package is what was formerly known as the Umbrella Platform with a handful of additional optional add-ons that qualify it as an SASE solution. These optional add-ons include (but are not limited to) remote browser isolation, intrusion prevention via outbound traffic, and cloud data loss prevention.
Even with all the optional add-ons, the SIG Essentials package still has limitations on its capabilities. For example, if you want to scan and remove malware from more than two cloud-based file storage apps, you will have to upgrade to the SIG Advantage package. Similarly, if you want to analyze suspicious files in Cisco´s Secure Malware Analytics Cloud, you are limited on how many files you can analyze per day and how deeply they will be inspected.
The SIG Advantage package includes all the tools a business would need to build a zero trust network supported by a secure Internet gateway and cloud access security broker; and, as an all-in-one product, the Cisco Umbrella SIG Advantage package rates highly in Gartner´s Magic Quadrant for SASE solutions (especially considering the analysis was done soon after the launch of the package).
What businesses have to consider before implementing a sophisticated solution such as SIG Advantage is whether they are actually at risk from the nature of threats the solution can prevent, whether they will be able to use all the solution´s capabilities (either due to a limited number of use cases or a lack of IT skills), and whether some of the capabilities of the SIG Advantage package exist in other security solutions already being used by the business.
Cisco Umbrella Licensing Fee
Whichever package a business opts for, Cisco Umbrella is a cloud-based service requiring a license/subscription for a fixed term of 1 or 3 years. The Cisco Umbrella licensing fee is based on the term of the subscription and the number of users; and, when dealing directly with Cisco, the company´s literature suggests the full Cisco Umbrella licensing fee has to be paid in advance.
However, some resellers advertise monthly, quarterly, or annual payments, and even discounts – when prices are listed. This implies that, as with most security software vendors, there is some leeway with the Cisco Umbrella licensing fee if you are prepared to negotiate – an implication that seems to be accurate based on the experiences described below.
Cisco Umbrella Pricing
Cisco doesn´t advertise the cost of any Umbrella packages and any Cisco Umbrella pricing published on reseller´s sites is likely to be inaccurate if discounts are built into the advertised price or if the advertised price does not include mandatory add-ons for onboarding and telephone support. There are also several online sources that claim “x” add-on costs “x” dollars, but it is impossible to tell whether this is the list price or what term/how many users the price relates to.
When dealing directly with Cisco, it is necessary to be aware that the free trial offered will likely be a fully featured SASE solution. This means that, if Cisco Umbrella pricing is raised as an objection after the trial, Cisco can reduce the number of features to appear to lower the cost. Similarly, when a business is offered an “introductory offer”, it is vital the business finds out what the cost will be when the license or subscription is due for renewal.
Cisco Umbrella Cost
It was mentioned above that there may be some leeway with the Cisco Umbrella licensing fee if you are prepared to negotiate, and this appears to be the case in our experience of talking with clients who have made the switch from Cisco Umbrella to WebTitan Cloud. The lowest price we discovered was $2.20 per user per month (in 2020) which was for the basic DNS Essentials package for a 1-year subscription for between 10-99 users, not including support or extras.
The cost of Cisco Umbrella packages will likely have increased since 2020, and the Cisco Umbrella cost being currently advertised on the Internet by a reseller suggests the base cost of a 1-year subscription to a DNS Essentials package for 10-99 users is $3.70 per user per month. From the reseller´s website it is impossible to tell what support or extras are included in the price, or whether the price is inflated to give the reseller some negotiating “wiggle room”.
The reseller also advertises prices for the DNS Advantage packages, which is relevant to comparing Cisco Umbrella alternatives because most businesses will want a web filtering solution capable of decrypting and inspecting SSL traffic. In this case, the Cisco Umbrella cost for the DNS Advantage package varies between $2.25 per user per month and $5.56 per user per month depending on the number of user and length of subscription. The price of SIG packages is only available on request.
Cisco Umbrella Review
So, what do you get for your money? There is no doubt that the top end of the Cisco Umbrella range is a powerful Internet security solution with many features needed by large enterprises. However, if your business is not a large enterprise with a team of IT experts with the skillsets to take advantage of the features, where does that leave you?
You could opt for the cheapest product in the Cisco Umbrella range – DNS Essentials. This solution is effective at blocking known threats and controlling access to previously categorized websites, and for some business, this will be enough. However, at around $2.20 per user per month, most Cisco Umbrella alternatives will be more cost-effective.
Upgrading to a DNS Advantage package will enable businesses to better secure their networks by adding SSL inspection and by blocking direct-to-IP traffic; but, as mentioned previously, this package lacks granularity. The package also lacks the capability to block or quarantine all files identified as suspicious by anti-virus software.
The lack of granularity can impact business operations if, for example, a business wants to prevent most employees accessing social media sites, but still needs a social media presence for marketing purposes. In these circumstances, it will be necessary to upgrade to a SIG Essentials package – which, as mentioned previously, may include many features the business will never use.
The SIG Advantage package is an extremely comprehensive and sophisticated package of DNS filtering and Internet security tools. However, unless your business is able to take advantage of tools for cloud intrusion and data loss prevention and needs to inspect thousands of malware samples per day, there are probably some features you will never use – but still pay for.
If you find a Cisco Umbrella review online, one of the most common complaints is not how well the product performs but the cost. You can easily find a Cisco Umbrella alternative for a fraction of the cost with features comparable to the DNS Advantage package or better. Another common complaint is about support, which many customers have found to be slow despite being a mandatory add-on.
How Does the Cisco Umbrella Price Compare with Other DNS Filtering Solutions?
As previously mentioned, one of the most common complaints found in Cisco Umbrella reviews relates to price. So, how does this compare to a Cisco Umbrella alternative such as WebTitan Cloud? And what do you get for your money if you switch an existing Cisco Umbrella package for WebTitan Cloud?
With regards to cost, there is only one WebTitan Cloud “package”. This costs between $0.90 and $1.90 per user per month depending on the number of users and the length of subscription. Customer support is included in the price, as are “extras” such as desktop and mobile roaming agents for off-network users.
What you get for your money is a DNS filtering and Internet security solution that fits between the DNS Advantage and SIG Essentials packages. Therefore, WebTitan Cloud includes SSL inspection, granular policies, and real-time (rather than retrospective) threat intelligence. WebTitan customers also get free access to online learning resources.
Therefore, instead of paying around $2.20 per user per month for the basic Cisco package (plus support costs), you can get a better Cisco Umbrella alternative for as little as 90 cents per user, per month. However, Internet security should not only be about price, so what do real users think of WebTitan Cloud as a Cisco Umbrella alternative?
WebTitan Cloud: An Ideal Cisco Umbrella Alternative for SMBs and MSPs
WebTitan Cloud is an ideal Cisco Umbrella alternative suitable for most SMBs and enterprises that cannot take advantage of the SIG Advantage package´s capabilities. WebTitan Cloud provides full SSL protection from online threats such as phishing, exploit kits, and drive-by malware downloads. You can block file types associated with malware and unauthorized software programs and take advantage of granular block and allow lists.
For Managed Service providers (MSPs), WebTitan Cloud is a scalable, multi-tenanted web filtering solution which is quick to deploy and easy to manage. MSPs can host WebTitan locally or in a private cloud, the solution can be supplied as a white label ready to take MSP branding, MSPs get dedicated support engineers, monthly billing, flexibility to account for changing seats numbers, and generous margins. But will MSP customers notice they are being supplied with a Cisco Umbrella alternative?
Probably yes, judging by the ratings collected by the review site G2.com. According to the January 2023 reviews, WebTitan Cloud outperforms Cisco Umbrella in all but two categories; and, although it is not possible to determine which packages were being used by the Cisco Umbrella reviewers, the reasons why you might consider WebTitan Cloud as a Cisco Umbrella alternative are clear.
Try WebTitan Cloud Today Free of Charge
If you are already using a Cisco Umbrella DNS filtering and Internet security package and are considering a Cisco Umbrella alternative – or you have yet to implement a DNS filtering solution to protect against web-based cyberattacks – contact the WebTitan Cloud team today to organize a thirty minute product demonstration, no-obligation quote, or free trial.
During your free trial, you will be able to evaluate the full product in your own environment and discover how easy the solution is to set up, use, and maintain. You will also have access to industry leading technical support as if you were already a WebTitan customer so that any questions you have about deployment, configuration, or management are answered quickly.