You’re either secure or not. There is no middle ground when it comes to having proper network security. The strength of your organization’s security depends immensely on the type of firewall that you implement. A firewall is designed to protect corporate data from unwanted intrusions and malware keeping business applications secure from outside attacks.

Firewalls vary in terms of advantages as well as protection capabilities. Let’s discuss how to find the ones that best fit your business.

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a firmware or software that constantly inspects outgoing and incoming traffic by means of predefined rules to identify potential threats. If a packet doesn’t follow the firewall’s specified rules or contains something unfamiliar, it is blocked or isolated.

Important Functions of a Firewall

In order to function effectively, a firewall must meet certain standards, be able to establish a ‘security fence’ around a private network, and prevent unauthorized access.

Network Traffic Filtering

The firewall helps filter the traffic that enters your network. This is an intensive task as malicious application traffic often disguises itself as HTTPS or HTTP traffic.

Flagging Network Issues

A firewall offers an automated system for quarantining hosts that seem potentially dangerous.

Secure Cloud Access 

With more businesses allocating resources to the cloud, it is important to use a firewall to ensure information is kept secure at all times.

What are the types of firewalls?

Four types of firewalls are recommended for securing business internet access. These include:

  1. Hardware-Based Firewall
  2. Router Based Firewall
  3. Network-Based Firewall
  4. Web Application Firewall

Each of these 4 is relevant depending on various factors. These can include functionality, capacity, size of the business, internet access requirements, etc. Let’s look at them in detail below.

What is a Hardware-Based Firewall?

Hardware-based firewalls are physical devices distinct from the router. They reside between the internet connection and the network computers. Rather than connecting the network cable to the server, the cable is first connected to the hardware-based firewall. These devices come complete with memory, processor, and software.

What is a Hardware-Based Firewall?

A hardware-based firewall serves a dual purpose by protecting all the devices connected to it and allowing a single point of control for all network activity. They add another layer of protection for your network security.

Benefits of hardware-based firewalls

Hardware firewalls offer:

  • Better speed and faster response times.
  • Scalability to handle an increasing amount of traffic.
  • Greater security as they come with their own operating system.
  • Better management as they can be reconfigured or even shut down without interfering with the rest of the network.
  • Easier setup due to a completely configurable list of rules that can be directly applied to network traffic.

Limitations of hardware-based firewalls

  • As an independent device, hardware-based firewalls cost more than other types. Also, they add to operational maintenance effort and expenditure.
  • The device comes with external wiring that takes up a certain amount of physical space.
  • It requires additional skills to install and upgrade.

What is a Router-Based Firewall?

The second option is a firewall that is built into the router rather than being a standalone device. They are sufficient enough to curtail potential attacks on internet access points. Typically, these wired or wireless routers with inbuilt firewalls are provided by the service provider as a part of the internet package.

These routers mainly function using packet filtering. In other words, they scan packet headers to assess the origin, source, as well as destination addresses. They also determine relationships between incoming and outgoing traffic. The requests for access are then compared against the preconfigured set of rules, and access or data flow is allowed or blocked accordingly.

Benefits of router firewalls

  • A single device acts as a firewall and a router reducing the number of devices the company has to manage.
  • Since they run separately from the computers, these routers/firewalls do not affect the performance or the speed of the system.
  • These firewalls are not easily disabled in case of a malicious attack.
  • A single router/firewall unit can support a number of devices.
  • Like standalone hardware firewalls, these router-based firewalls offer centralized control and management.

Limitations of router firewalls

Limitations of router firewalls

  • Cost is a major disadvantage as routers can be expensive pieces of equipment.
  • They require specialized installation, upgrade, and maintenance skills.
  • These are usually bundled by the internet service provider, and the company cannot change the strength of the firewall provided.

What is a Network-Based Firewall?

As the name suggests, a network-based firewall works at the network level and is usually managed by the internet service provider or the ISP. It carries out data filtering on all traffic that travels from the internet to the computer systems of the organization.

The data management rules configured in the network-based firewall apply to the entire network. It sets a perimeter by acting as the first line of defense in case of an attack. Further, most network firewalls are also capable of automatically updating their list of malicious and approved applications.

Benefits of network-based firewalls

Network firewalls are capable of:

  • Analyzing and blocking unwanted traffic, including viruses and malware, from entering the network.
  • Providing continuous protection to all connected assets.
  • Excellent traffic logging data and centralized control. This is especially helpful during an audit.
  • Easily scaling up or down, making them more cost-effective.

Limitations of network-based firewalls

  • There are mobility limitations in a network firewall. This can be a disadvantage if you are shifting office locations, as the firewall cannot be shifted until all the devices connected to it are moved.
  • The setup and maintenance require a niche skillset adding to the cost of operation.

What is a Web Application Firewall?

A Web Application Firewall, or WAF, is capable of protecting web applications by means of monitoring and filtering traffic that travels between the internet and the web application. It basically performs the function of a firewall by keeping the applications safe from attacks.

WAF forms the first layer of protection as it sits in front of a web application. It works on a reverse-proxy model wherein the clients are required to pass through the web application firewall before contacting the server.

Benefits of implementing a Web Application Firewall

Benefits of implementing a Web Application Firewall

  • A WAF is an extremely flexible form of firewall that can be implemented on the host, the network, or can even be a cloud-based firewall.
  • It protects web applications from severe attacks that most standard firewalls fail to do.
  • WAF offers a high level of security at an extremely affordable cost. It does not consume too many company resources or capabilities. It simply runs in the background and prevents unwanted traffic, and generates alerts.
  • WAF ensures much-required data confidentiality in the era when most data are stored on the cloud.

Limitations of implementing a Web Application Firewall

  • Web application firewalls block traffic from outside the application and have no clue as to what is going on inside the application.
  • The network security solution involving a WAF requires regular fine-tuning of policies and configurations.

How to choose a firewall solution?

Selecting the best firewall option depends on various factors like:

  • Size of the network
  • Number of users
  • Future business growth
  • Budget
  • Any special security requirements
  • Cloud access and remote connection requirements

For example, a small business with basic network security requirements can use a router-based firewall. On the other hand, a mid-sized company will need to implement additional hardware firewalls along with the router. A large organization continuously accessing and transporting sensitive data over the network will require a more sophisticated setup. They will need a unified threat management solution requiring multiple components like network firewall, antivirus software, and more.

CarrierBid Communications can help you choose the best security options for your business. Contact us for a free consultation to explore your options.

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