NAC Showdown: Cisco ISE vs. Aruba ClearPass vs. Forescout

A few years back, a survey of companies looking to deploy network access controls (NAC) identified two main reasons:

  • 1) Protecting corporate resources from unauthorized users
  • 2) Limiting the impact of security problems

That second reason stands as a tacit acknowledgment that not every network threat can be fully neutralized before some damage occurs.

Today, NAC solutions have several years’ development under their respective belts. It’s that kind of experience that helps companies thwart bad actors before they can access protected networks.

The three top providers of NAC solutions today are Cisco ISE, Aruba ClearPass, and Forescout. We’ll break down notable aspects of each to help you decide which one is right for your enterprise.

What Users Say

Top IT review site offers an inside look at the network access control solutions provided by Cisco ISE, ForeScout, and Aruba courtesy of professionals who use them every day.

Overall User Rating
Cisco ISE: 4.1 out of 5
ForeScout: 4.2 out of 5
Aruba: 4.2 out of 5

Would Recommend
Cisco ISE: 62%
ForeScout: 75%
Aruba: 88%

Service + Support
Cisco ISE: 4.1 out of 5
ForeScout: 4 out of 5
Aruba: 4.3 out of 5

Our Take
Users aren’t in love with NAC solutions, even if everyone agrees about the importance of each vendor’s mission. This is one of those IT fields where working with a specialist helps alleviate a lot of the time it can take to get the software precisely where you want — and need — it to be.

Pros + Cons

There are enough variables involved in the implementation of something as complex as a NAC solution that working with the right partner — one with experience and strong communication skills — can swing you more toward the “pro” side of many deployments. That said, here are some of the best and not-so-best aspects of these vendors as shared by professionals.

Cisco ISE Pro:
— The market leader with a feature-rich NAC solution that tops competitors.
— “It is reliable and does not present serious technical problems that hinder our experience as clients.”

Cisco ISE Con:
— Complicated to deploy and use.

ForeScout Pro:
— Strong in healthcare, protecting devices such as heart monitors and handheld devices used by clinicians.
— “They have really strong capabilities and are very flexible for posturing and enforcing actions based on those results.”

ForeScout Con:
— May be pricey for distributed environments.

Aruba Pro:
— Considered by some “more straightforward to implement and support.”
— “The ClearPass is absolutely the most complete and powerful tool when considering network access control and security enforcement rules.”

Aruba Con:
— May be difficult to deploy.

Our Take
When markets get competitive, even a sliver of an advantage can make the difference between one vendor and another in a photo finish of features and value. Access control, ease of deployment and use, and industry-specific strengths can all factor into the decision. It’s always a good idea to listen to what users say.


Cost consideration plays a role in every aspect of an IT department’s operations. Fortunately, working with an effective data loss prevention provider should work with any reasonable budget.

Cisco ISE: Based on subscription term and the number of points protected. Pricing flexibility as rated by Gartner reviewers is 3.8.

Forescout: Physical appliances with software license start at $4,995. Virtual appliances with software license start at $3,701. Pricing flexibility as rated by Gartner reviewers is 3.9.

Aruba: Costs vary with size. Pricing flexibility as rated by Gartner reviewers is 3.9.

Our Take
In the “Pros and Cons” section, above, we talked about factors that influence the final call on a vendor. Pricing is no different: price/performance ratio is important, as is pricing flexibility. Because your situation is unique — with respect to users, access points, locations, and more — you’ll need to put in some legwork to get a reliable approximate cost. We’re happy to help; simply let us know.

Deploy the Right Network Access Control Solution for Your Enterprise

The Internet of Things, professionals leaning more on BYOD than ever, continuing cyber threats: there’s never been a better time to consider network access controls for your enterprise.

All have their place. But because NAC capabilities differ between each vendor’s offerings, you’ll have many decisions to make before finally circling the right one for your needs. CTC Technologies is ready now to help your team and the enterprise it protects. Contact us today.


We Have The Proof

We Solve Complex IT and Networking Problems.

Contact Us Today