Opnsense vs. pfsense – Which is the better option

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Opnsense vs. Pfsense

If you have been looking for a firewall that helps you not only secure, but also manage your network, then you have most likely come across both Opnsense and pfsense. This comparative review pins these two options against each other and should be instrumental in choosing the one of the two that suits your needs.

The search for the perfect firewall to protect and manage your home or work network is not a walk in the park because there are quite a variety of options in the market. However, Opnsense and Pfsense often come up in these searches. Pfsense was first released in 2006, its name was derived from its use of the packet filtering tool PF while Opnsense was developed from pfsense and was launched in 2015. From their relationship, it is clear that both programmes were made to address the same software network issues which were protection and control of the network, while providing additional features that increase functionality like web filters and supporting site to site VPNs and clients.

The key to choosing the best firewall is comparing it to another against your specific needs. This is because, where one fails, another redeems and vice versa which makes picking the best one a matter of professional perspective.

What are the differences between Opnsense and Pfsense?

Feature
Opnsense
Pfsense
Support site to site IPsec VPN and client, Open VPN and client and PPTP client.
yes
yes
Intrusion detection and prevention in transparent mode
yes
yes
Quick updates and patches
yes
No
DNS filtering with any DNS filtering company
yes
yes
Two factor authentication which works with a remote radius server
yes
No
Network configuration with customized configuration enabled by a set-up wizard
yes
Yes

Opnsense vs. Pfsense- How do they compare?

Visual appeal and navigation

Pfsense and Opnsense have different looking dashboards that appeal to different users. The dashboard for Opnsense consists menus on the left-hand side of while that of pfsense has drop down menus arranged on it. The list of menus on the left of the dashboard make using Opnsense very easy because it is well organized and easy to navigate. This also makes the system more intuitive and easy to use without support especially for someone who is just learning how to use a firewall or a first time installer of one. However, for a trained software expert, this would make a small difference since the page on Opnsense is still navigable, though it appears messy.

The underlying Operating system

Though they are both based on FreeBSD, Pfsense uses a more up to date version and puts more effort to make the system more complete and easier to use. In the case of drivers to be automatically loaded into the kernel of the system start up, with opnsense you need to tinker with the configuration files to get it up and running, which is quite a lot of work and adding a network card may cause the system to reboot which is not the case for pfsense.

Licensing

Pfsense is distributed under the Apache 2 licence which limits the freedoms of the users as it pertains to changing and modifying the system for various uses. On the other hand, opnsense is licensed under an open source initiative approved licence which allows the users to do whatever they want to do with the code, even re-develop it for different use.

Features

Both systems have a long list of similar features which include VLAN, WLAN, DNS servers, WAN failover and balancing and web proxies. However only pfsense has automatic encrypted system backups to google drive or next cloud and a PF blocker. The automated backups are especially helpful in the case of a sudden system crash or fail because they build the entire system back to its condition before the crash. Opnsense has a longer list of plugins, which is very convenient for multiple users using different applications. Opnsense supports 2 FA from administrator web management login to open VPN server login, which is an additional layer of security to the administrator password.

Opnsense vs. Pfsense – A comparison overview

Pfsense

Pfsense is an open source and free to distribute Operating system, released in 2006 which is designed to build routers as well as be used as a firewall. Its website is an open source security platform where you can get cloud infrastructures, build or purchase already built platforms or download the operation system for your own build. It is especially useful in monitoring the functionality of the system it is connected in by featuring detailed RDD graphs which allows you to effectively monitor CPU utilization and traffic queues.

It comes with Back up configuration, which allows you to export all your information in an XML file and keep it backed up. This gives you a backup of your router that allows you to completely restore it in the case of a hardware failure or if the system crashes, as opposed to having to build your system again from scratch. It also allows for specific routing as well as multiple configurations. This allows you to route different networks across different subnets in the case that you are building different subnets across the system and you want to control the information that flows to each subnet. It comes with a custom host file which allows you to control the entire host file block list that pushes out to everything on the network on Pfsense itself from one selected device, which an effective security measure that also saves on internet resources.

Pros

  • Easy rules configuration
  • Regular updates
  • It is free to download and use
  • Commonly used, making it easy to find tutorials and answers to FAQs online
  • Comes with a wide array of helpful features

Cons

  • The dashboard is difficult to manoeuvre for an inexperienced user
  • It renders some network cards problematic

Opnsense

Opnsense is an open source operating system that is used to make custom routers whichwas originally developed from Pfsense, though less mainstream and commercial, which means that they have a lot of the same features with a few small differences. It is open source, which means that it is free to download and install. It supports site to site IPsec VPN and client, Open VPN and client and PPTP client as well as supporting high availability in hardware (You can run two hardware devices in high availability mode)This means that as you run it, you don’t have the dilemma of picking which hardware should get priority. Its two factor authentication which works with a remote radius server which increases security in management of the network by the administrator. The arrangement of the dashboard makes it very easy to use, even for a user who is not tech-savvy, making it the perfect option for a beginner.

Pros

  • Free to download and use
  • It is visually simple to use and navigate
  • Comes with regular package updates
  • Great reporting, VPN and advanced firewall features

Cons

  • Its updates could be considered as too frequent, which makes it easy to lose work if it is not backed up.

Conclusion

Both networks have very good, constantly updated documentation, which is vital when using an open source network. Opnsense has taken some of the modules and subsystems from Pfsense like; logging and limiter web proxy, and rewritten them, which makes them a bit different to use, though just as effective.The plug in framework for Opnsense has a better rewrite and offers better extensibility without having to deal with core modifications which would be essential to a web developer.

Verdict: So which is better opnsense or pfsense?

Since Opnsense was developed from pfsense, they have quite a number of similarities. However, Pfsense is superior in its array of features, coupled with its automatic back up while Opnsense has a longer list of plugins and its licensing makes it ideal for a web developer.Overall, unless your intention is web development, pfsense wins.

FAQs

What would be the firmware requirements to install and run pfsense?

The minimum hardware requirements for a successful pfsense installation and running are a CPU that offers at least 650 MHz, 550 MB of RAM and about 4 GB of hard disk space altogether, which you can switch out for a bootable USB. You will also need at least one network interface card that is compatible to the system and network.

In what way does pfsense identify and assign interfaces?

It makes use of unique identifiers that are linked to the associated MAC address with the driver in use. In fact, an interface is a name holder for the ports.

Is Opnsense the same as pfsense?

Although Opnsense was developed from pfsense and they were made by the same web developers, they are two different and independent open source projects. They have a lot of core similarities but tend to diverge in a few areas such as the frequency with which they send updates and their web UIs, which makes them useful to different users.

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