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Azure Firewall vs Network Security Group: Which is Best for Securing Your Network?

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Introduction to Azure Firewall and Network Security Group

Azure Firewall and Network Security Group

Cloud computing has gained immense popularity in recent times. It has become more accessible than ever, providing businesses with the much-needed flexibility and scalability to store, manage and operate data. However, with the increasing dependency on cloud, businesses need to be more mindful of their security strategy and consider adopting measures that can help prevent breaches and threats. This is where Azure Firewall and Network Security Group come into play.

Azure Firewall and Network Security Group are security tools that allow businesses to secure their cloud infrastructure by providing access control and monitoring of network traffic based on a set of predefined rules. Both these tools work on different levels and offer unique capabilities that can help a business protect its cloud environment at various levels.

Firstly, Azure Firewall is a cloud-based network security service that provides businesses with the ability to protect their resources deployed in Azure. It acts as a centralized security management solution that enables businesses to control the flow of traffic between their virtual networks and the internet. Azure Firewall provides protection against threats like malware, viruses, and data breaches and helps businesses to identify and block malicious traffic.

Azure Firewall is a fully-managed service that can be deployed in minutes and allows businesses to scale their firewall as needed. It also integrates with other Azure tools and services, making it easier for businesses to manage their security protocols. Furthermore, Azure Firewall provides extensive reporting and monitoring capabilities, making it easier for businesses to identify potential security breaches and remediate them quickly.

On the other hand, Network Security Group (NSG) is a feature of Azure that allows businesses to create security groups that contain a set of security rules. These rules can be used to regulate the inbound and outbound traffic for a particular virtual network subnet or network interface. NSGs are highly customizable and enable businesses to create their own security rules to better protect their virtual network.

NSGs allow businesses to define rules based on source and destination IP addresses, protocols, and ports. This allows businesses to block or allow traffic based on their requirements. NSGs can be associated with individual resources or applied to an entire subnet in a virtual network. This makes NSGs highly effective in securing a business’s virtual network at a granular level.

Another advantage of NSGs is that they provide a “deny by default” security model, which is recommended by security experts. This means that all traffic that does not match a rule is denied, ensuring that no unauthorized system or service gains access to the business’s virtual network.

Finally, while both Azure Firewall and Network Security Group offer unique capabilities, neither one can completely replace the other. Azure Firewall is a centralized security management solution that is best suited to securing resources in Azure, while NSGs offer granular-level security for virtual networks. Both tools are highly customizable and can be combined to provide businesses with a more comprehensive security solution.

Overall, Azure Firewall and Network Security Group are essential components of a business’s cloud security strategy. Together, they can help businesses prevent security breaches and ensure the safety of their cloud infrastructure.

Functionality and Features of Azure Firewall

Azure Firewall

Azure Firewall is a network security service offered by Microsoft that provides advanced security features such as network traffic filtering and protection against cyber threats. It also offers the ability to control and manage internet access for virtual network resources.

This firewall service is a great option for managing traffic to and from Azure virtual networks and public internet resources. It’s designed to work as an entirely cloud-based network security solution and provides seamless integration with other Azure services like Azure virtual networks and Azure Sentinel (a cloud-native security information and event manager).

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Azure Firewall not only offers the basic features that traditional firewalls provide like denying and allowing traffic based on IP addresses but also offers more advanced features like deep packet inspection, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), and URL and application filtering. This allows you to reduce the risk of cyber attacks by stopping unauthorised access to your network and applications.

One of the main advantages of Azure Firewall is its integration with Azure Virtual Networks (VNet). This feature enables you to centrally manage and monitor internet traffic that’s going in and out of multiple VNets within the same subscription. It offers the ability to implement custom routing rules and security policies across VNets with ease, making network security management hassle-free.

Moreover, Azure Firewall comes with built-in high availability and unlimited scalability, providing you with the assurance that your applications and services remain accessible and secure even during traffic peaks. This means that you can scale your firewall horizontally and vertically based on your business needs, and Azure will manage the resources and traffic evenly across the grounds.

Overall, Azure Firewall’s features and functionalities provide a complete network security solution for your Azure Virtual Networks. It’s an effective solution that helps to prevent and mitigate the risk of cyber attacks and provides complete control over internet traffic. This ensures your resources are safe and secure.

Functionality and Features of Network Security Group

Network Security Group Features

Network Security Group (NSG) is a simple yet powerful tool, which can filter network traffic to and from Azure resources. It is a layer of security that helps organizations implement granular access controls in their virtual networks. NSGs are similar to firewalls; they inspect incoming and outgoing traffic and apply security rules that are defined by the user. However, NSGs have some unique functionality and features that set them apart from traditional firewalls.

1. Traffic Filtering

Perhaps the most significant functionality of NSGs is their ability to filter network traffic. By default, when you create a virtual network in Azure, all inbound traffic is blocked, and only outbound traffic is allowed. With NSGs, you can allow or deny traffic based on a variety of factors, such as source IP address, destination IP address, source port, destination port, and protocol. This means that you can restrict traffic to specific resources, ports, or protocols, making your Azure environment more secure.

2. Multiple Security Rules

Another key feature of NSGs is their ability to apply multiple security rules to a single network interface (NIC). This means that you can create specific rules for different types of traffic. For example, you can create one rule that allows HTTP traffic to a web server and another that allows SSH traffic to a virtual machine. You can also create rules that allow traffic only from specific IP addresses or subnets.

3. Integration with Azure Services

NSGs are tightly integrated with other Azure services, which makes them a powerful tool in securing your Azure environment. For example, you can combine NSGs with Azure Application Gateway to secure traffic for web applications. You can also use NSGs to secure traffic to and from Azure Virtual Machines or Azure Kubernetes Service.

NSGs can also be used in conjunction with Azure Virtual WAN, which allows you to connect your virtual networks to each other and to remote locations. This means that you can create a secure global network architecture using NSGs.

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4. Logging and Monitoring

Lastly, NSGs offer logging and monitoring capabilities that allow you to track network traffic in your Azure environment. You can monitor logs for inbound and outbound traffic, and you can also generate flow logs that show all traffic going through an NSG. This information can be used to identify and troubleshoot network issues, as well as to detect and respond to potential security threats.

In conclusion, Network Security Groups are an essential tool for securing your Azure environment. They offer granular access controls, traffic filtering, and logging and monitoring capabilities. With NSGs, you can create a secure network architecture that meets your specific requirements.

Azure Firewall vs Network Security Group: Pros and Cons

What is Azure Firewall?

Azure Firewall

Azure Firewall is a cloud-based network security solution developed by Microsoft that provides inbound and outbound traffic filtering and network security policy enforcement for Virtual Network resources.


  • Centralized network security management
  • Supports Application FQDN filtering and URL filtering
  • Integration with Azure Monitor
  • HA with built-in auto scaling


  • High cost compared to Network Security Groups
  • No support for IP-based protocol filtering
  • Requires a separate subnet for deployment and use

What is Network Security Group?

Network Security Group

Network Security Group (NSG) is a lightweight, network-based access control list that can be used to filter network traffic to and from Azure resources based on protocol, port, and source/destination IP addresses.


  • Cost-effective solution compared to Azure Firewall
  • Supports IP-based protocol filtering
  • Easy to deploy and configure
  • Can be applied to multiple Virtual Networks or Subnets


  • No support for Application FQDN filtering or URL filtering
  • Requires separate NSG rules to manage inbound and outbound traffic
  • May increase administrative overhead with complex deployment scenarios



When it comes to choosing between Azure Firewall and Network Security Group, it largely depends on the security needs and budget of an organization.

Cost: NSG is a cost-effective solution compared to Azure Firewall, which is a premium network security solution that comes with a premium price tag.

Features: NSG is a lightweight, packet-based firewall that can filter traffic based on IP addresses and protocols, while Azure Firewall is an advanced firewall that supports application-aware filtering, custom rules, and integration with Azure Monitor.

Scalability: Azure Firewall is a highly scalable solution that can be used to secure large-scale enterprise environments, while NSG may require multiple rules and additional configuration for complex deployment scenarios.

Management: Both solutions can be managed using the Azure Portal, Azure CLI, or Azure PowerShell, but Azure Firewall provides centralized security management and monitoring capabilities that make it easier to monitor and enforce network security policies.



Choosing between Azure Firewall and Network Security Group largely depends on the specific needs and budget of an organization. If you are looking for a cost-effective solution that can filter network traffic based on IP address and protocol, then NSG is a good option. If you need a more advanced, application-aware firewall that can be used to secure large-scale enterprise environments, then Azure Firewall might be the better choice. Ultimately, both solutions can provide effective network security when configured and managed properly.

Which to Choose – Azure Firewall or Network Security Group?

Azure Firewall vs Network Security Group

When it comes to securing your network in Azure, there are two primary options available: Azure Firewall and Network Security Group (NSG). Both are capable of protecting your network, however, their functionalities differ, which makes them suitable for different use cases. In this article, we will compare Azure Firewall vs Network Security Group to help you make an informed decision on which to choose.


Azure Firewall Architecture

Azure Firewall is a fully-featured firewall that provides access control, threat protection, and Application Gateway integration. It can filter traffic based on application protocols, network protocols, and source/destination IP addresses. Additionally, it allows for both manual and automated management of rules. With Azure Firewall, you can create filtering rules to block unauthorized access to your applications and services, or to enforce regulatory or compliance requirements.

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On the other hand, Network Security Group (NSG) is a basic network filtering service that allows you to control inbound and outbound traffic to network interfaces. NSG offers granular control over network traffic by allowing or denying traffic based on IP addresses, protocols, ports, and direction. You can also use NSG with user-defined routes to create custom routing rules.


Azure NSG Scalability

One key factor to consider when choosing between Azure Firewall and NSG is scalability. As an enterprise grows, so does the demand for network security solutions. Azure Firewall addresses this challenge by providing an extension to the Azure Virtual Network service that scales automatically to meet the changing needs of your network. You can also deploy multiple Azure Firewalls in a virtual network, thereby creating a highly available and fault-tolerant architecture.

On the other hand, NSG does not scale to meet the increasing demands of networks very effectively. Adding/removing NSG rules requires a manual process that may have a significant impact on your network’s performance if not carefully managed. Therefore, if you anticipate that your security control requirements will grow significantly, Azure Firewall may be a more effective choice.


Azure Firewall vs Network Security Group Pricing

Cost is another factor to consider when selecting a network security solution. This is especially important when deploying at scale. Azure Firewall and NSG come with different cost implications.

Azure Firewall is a premium service that comes with a premium price compared to NSG. It is billed based on virtual networks, public IPs, rules, and compliance services used. Therefore, if you need a fully-featured firewall with advanced filtering and compliance capabilities, then Azure Firewall will be more cost-effective than purchasing third-party software solutions.

NSG, on the other hand, is a basic service that comes at no additional cost. You only pay for resources deployed to your virtual network. However, if you require additional functionality, such as threat intelligence or compliance services, then you may need to opt for third-party solutions.

Integration with Other Azure Services

Azure Firewall Integration with Other Azure Services

One of the key advantages of both Azure Firewall and NSG is their ability to integrate with other Azure services. However, there are differences in the degree of integration available.

Azure Firewall integrates natively with Azure Virtual Network, Application Gateway, and Azure Monitor. This allows you to monitor network traffic, create access policies, and log network activity. Additionally, Azure Firewall supports integration with third-party security solutions through APIs and integration with Azure Security Center.

NSG, on the other hand, can be associated with a subnet or a network interface. This makes it applicable for controlling traffic to VM instances and to Azure Load Balancer. In addition, NSG is designed to support custom routes, which can be used for advanced network topology scenarios. However, NSG does not integrate directly with Azure Monitor or Azure Security Center.


In conclusion, Azure Firewall and Network Security Group are both effective tools for securing your network in Azure. However, their functionalities, scalability, cost, and integration capabilities differ. When choosing between Azure Firewall and NSG, consider your organization’s requirements, scalability needs, and cost of ownership. For organizations that demand advanced security controls with greater scalability and native integration, Azure Firewall is a better choice. For small businesses with simpler network security requirements, NSG can provide sufficient protection at a lower cost.