In this post we propose an ideal Cisco Umbrella alternative that you can implement at a fraction of the cost of Cisco Umbrella, yet still have excellent protection from web-based threats and precision Internet content control for your workforce.

WebTitan Cloud is the leading Cisco Umbrella alternative for SMBs and Managed Service Providers (MSP) that serve the SMB market. WebTitan Cloud is, in many respects, a direct swap out for entry-level Cisco Umbrella packages, and one that will save you a small fortune on DNS filtering costs.

What is Cisco Umbrella?

In 2015, Cisco acquired OpenDNS and rebranded the OpenDNS Umbrella solution Cisco Umbrella. Cisco Umbrella is first and foremost a DNS filtering service – a cloud-based security service that protects office and home workers from online threats by filtering DNS requests. The Cisco Umbrella DNS filtering service works at the DNS lookup stage of a web request, where a URL is translated into an IP address to allow the resource to be located by a computer.

Depending on what Umbrella package you subscribe to, Cisco Umbrella DNS filtering allows administrators to set controls governing the web content that can be accessed, the files that can be downloaded from the Internet, along with a range of other security features such as a cloud-delivered firewall, shadow IT protection, and tools to investigate cyber threats.

Before we cover what each of the Umbrella packages consists of and the cost of WebTitan versus Cisco Umbrella in our Cisco Umbrella review, it is worthwhile taking a moment to explain why DNS filtering is now an essential part of the security stack and why you need to add this additional layer of security if you are not already using a DNS filter.

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Why is a DNS Filter Necessary?

You will no doubt be aware that the internet can be a dangerous place. As an IT professional or SMB owner, you need to make sure that employees do not venture into areas of the Internet that could cause your business harm.

Even general web browsing can pose a risk of a malware infection or ransomware download, and employees can easily be tricked into visiting phishing web pages where credentials are harvested. These are very real threats that need to be mitigated.

Rather than leave things to chance and hope your employees obey the rules and recognize all threats in time, you can implement a content filtering solution such as a DNS filter. A DNS filter requires no hardware purchases nor software downloads. You just reconfigure your DNS and point it to the provider of your DNS filtering service and apply your content controls. A DNS filter will block access to malicious content and can be configured to block downloads of certain file types commonly used to install malware.

All DNS content filtering takes place in the cloud, there will be no latency, and filtering will take place without any content being downloaded. You can control the categories of content that can be accessed and, if rules are broken by employees, they will be directed to a block page and no harm will be done. You can run reports on web usage, apply controls to conserve bandwidth, and perhaps most importantly, you can prevent employees from visiting malicious websites and can block malware and ransomware downloads. Without this additional security layer, your business may be at risk.

Cisco Umbrella Review

In this Cisco Umbrella review we will cover some of the advantages and disadvantages of Cisco Umbrella and will present a Cisco Umbrella alternative that is ideal for SMBs and MSPs. The Cisco Umbrella alternative we suggest includes the most important features of the Umbrella DNS filtering solution, with some key advantages for SMBs and MSPs. First, let us consider some aspects of the Cisco Umbrella solution to save you time in your research.

There are four Cisco Umbrella packages to choose from – each with an increasing number of capabilities as you upgrade from basic DNS filtering to a comprehensive Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution. The four packages are:

DNS Essentials

DNS Essentials is the Cisco Umbrella entry level package. The DNS filter blocks websites known to be harboring malware or created for phishing attacks, blocks (or allows) Internet access by domain or category, and enables system administrators to create user policies and view activity reports – albeit at an additional cost when integrated with a directory service such as Active Directory.

The disadvantage of DNS Essentials is that it does not decrypt and inspect the content of encrypted websites. Therefore, if a website is not yet known to be harboring malware – or it contains content that would normally be blocked because of the category of website – the DNS filter will not be able to read the content of the malicious or harmful website.

DNS Advantage

The DNS Advantage package is more advanced than the entry-level package inasmuch as it can inspect and decrypt encrypted websites and will block websites and files if they are identified as malicious by the anti-virus software. DNS Advantage also blocks direct-to-IP traffic such as C2 callbacks that bypass DNS filters and can be integrated with other Cisco tools to analyze threats.

However, like the DNS Essentials package, DNS Advantage only blocks or allows websites by domain, rather than by URL. This can create issues if, for example, you want to allow the finance team access to the money pages of an online newspaper, but want to prevent the rest of the workforce wasting time reading the same newspaper´s sports coverage. It´s either all or nothing.

SIG Essentials

The first of two Secure Internet Gateway (SIG) packages improves on the DNS packages by providing more granular controls to manage Internet access. The SIG Essentials package also comes with a cloud firewall that can be configured to block or allow specific IPs, ports, and protocols, and an anti-virus engine that can be configured to scan previously benign files to disguised threats.

The disadvantage of this package is that it is marketed as a SASE-light solution. This can lead to a false sense of security until you realize that you have to pay extra to subscribe to multiple add-ons (for example, outbound traffic scans). It is also important to be aware there is a mandatory charge for onboarding (which applies to all packages) and an extra charge for priority technical support.

SIG Advantage

SIG Advantage has been acknowledged as a leading SASE solution by Gartner´s Magic Quadrant and this version of the Cisco Umbrella includes almost everything that is an add-on in other versions (except onboarding and technical support). Furthermore, you can enhance the capabilities of the SASE solution by taking advantage of Cisco Talos Incident Response (at an additional cost).

The disadvantage of this package is that it includes many features that businesses may not be able to take advantage of (because the use cases do not apply or the technical skills do not exist) or that are present in existing security solutions (i.e., Microsoft Sentinel, Amazon Security Lake, etc.). Consequently, you may be paying a lot for features you may never use.

Cisco Umbrella Pricing

Cisco Umbrella pricing is not transparent. There are no price lists on the Cisco website, and while it is possible to get an idea of Cisco Umbrella pricing from resellers or customers via Google searches, the prices quoted may be out of date, not include optional extras, and – in the case of resellers´ price lists - may be artificially inflated so customers can be offered discounts at checkout.

From speaking with former customers of Cisco that have switched to WebTitan, we estimate the current price of a DNS Advantage package (with basic customer support) is around $2.70 per user per month based on a 1-year subscription for 100 to 499 users. This may be higher than some customers are paying due to negotiating discounts with resellers or introductory offers.

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Cisco Umbrella Licensing

The Cisco Umbrella licensing model is similar to most other software vendors inasmuch as the cost of Cisco Umbrella is dependent on the package, the number of users, the length of subscription, and location. This model not only applies to the basic subscription cost but also to the cost of add-ons for onboarding, technical support, and any other feature a business subscribes to.

It is important to be aware that businesses can add or remove licenses from a subscription provided they remain within the same cost “band”. Depending on what package the business subscribes to, the cost bands are for 10 - 99 “seats”, 100 – 499 seats, and 500 – 999 seats, with further bands starting at 1,000 seats, 5,000 seats, 10,000 seats, and 25,000 seats.

Is It Worth Paying the Cisco Umbrella Price?

For most businesses, probably not. Businesses currently subscribing to the DNS Essentials and DNS Advantage packages should certainly switch to WebTitan Cloud. Not only is WebTitan Cloud significantly less expensive ($1.58 per user per month for a one-year subscription covering 100 – 499 users), but you also get SSL inspection, granular filtering, and technical support included.

Cisco customers paying more than $1.58 per user per month for the SIG Essentials and SIG Advantage packages, need to consider whether it is worth paying the Cisco Umbrella price or switching to a Cisco Umbrella alternative based on how much use they are making of the additional capabilities and whether they get better protection and flexibility from the Cisco packages.

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There is More to Consider than the Cost of Cisco Umbrella Alone

Cost is not the only consideration, although it is certainly important. You will want to ensure that your DNS filter allows you to control content easily and it must provide protection against web-based threats. So, does opting for a Cisco Umbrella alternative reduce the protection you will get? Actually, you can pay less and improve protection, have an easier to use product, with better reporting, and less complexity.

WebTitan Cloud has a totally transparent and flexible pricing policy and provides the same, high level of protection for everyone. WebTitan is also loved by users who rate it highly for ease of setup, ease of use, ease of admin, and for the quality of support provided. This can be seen on review sites such as G2 Crowd, as detailed below.

Cisco Umbrella Alternative

The Leading DNS Filtering Solution for MSPs Serving the SMB Market

TitanHQ is a global leader in cloud-based email and web security solutions for MSPs that serve the SMB market. WebTitan has been designed to be ideal for MSPs and includes a host of features not offered by Cisco. For example, in contrast to the Cisco Umbrella options for MSPs, we offer a range of hosting options – in TitanHQ´s cloud, in a private cloud, or in your own on-site environment.

You can also have WebTitan in white label form ready to take your own branding - another big plus for MSPs that is not offered by Cisco. The solution is also easy to integrate seamlessly into your own security and customer management solutions thanks to a suite of APIs. Onboarding new customers is simple and painless, and managing their web filtering settings is straightforward.

Cisco Umbrella alternative for MSPs

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Find out More About Our Alternative to Cisco Umbrella Today!

Our sales staff will be happy to explain the benefits of WebTitan over Cisco Umbrella and schedule a product demonstration to show you how easy the solution is to use and integrate into your own environment. If you would like to try WebTitan before committing, you can also take advantage of our free 14-day trial. For the duration of the trial, you will have access to full product support to ensure you get the most out of the solution. For more information, give the TitanHQ team a call today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Cisco Umbrella the same as OpenDNS?

Cisco acquired OpenDNS and rebranded the OpenDNS enterprise security products as Cisco Umbrella. Cisco Umbrella is not exactly the same as OpenDNS, but they do perform the same function, with Cisco Umbrella providing enterprises with greater control, more features, and better integration with other Cisco solutions.

Is Cisco Umbrella worth the cost?

Cisco Umbrella is a powerful web security solution that provides important security benefits and visibility into the Internet activity of all devices and users. While the threat protection is excellent, the cost of the solution can be prohibitively expensive for many small businesses, who can get the features they need from a solution at a fraction of the cost.

Who uses Cisco Umbrella?

While any company can benefit from Cisco Umbrella and improve security, the solution is aimed at mid-to large-sized organizations and includes many features that smaller businesses will not need or use. If you are just looking for a web security solution to control access to web content and block malware downloads, you will be able to make considerable savings with WebTitan.

Is Cisco Umbrella DNS Security Essentials worth the cost?

The features included with the cheapest package of Cisco Umbrella – DNS Security Essentials - are very limited. Businesses looking for the features provided by DNS Security Essentials will be able to get them and more – full SSL inspection for instance - with a Cisco Umbrella alternative such as WebTitan Cloud.

Is Cisco Umbrella a good choice for MSPs?

Cisco does provide Umbrella for Managed Service Providers and it is a good solution for protecting clients and preventing costly malware infections. While an accomplished product, the cost can be high for MSPs, especially those serving the SMB market and there is no option for hosting within an MSP data center and the solution will not be provided as a white label.