A firewall is a system that sits between a computer or network, and the Internet. It aims to protect the computer or network from unauthorized access and use. Firewalls work by inspecting the data that enters and exits the network, based on an organization’s rules and other custom configurations. It will prevent any viruses, worms, and other intrusions from entering and harming the network. Consequently, firewall solutions are a very important aspect in the security of a business.
There are two types of firewalls that a business can use to protect their sensitive and confidential data – hardware and software.
This type of firewall is used on a company’s own hardware, such as broadband routers, to protect devices within the network. It uses packet filtering to read the header of the packet to determine both its source and destination. These details are compared with pre-defined rules on the network to determine if the packet should proceed into the network or whether it should be discarded.
There are also more sophisticated solutions that examine the actual origin of the packet, and whether its receipt is in response to outgoing traffic or the packet is unsolicited.
One limitation of hardware firewalls is that they treat any traffic traveling from the local network to the Internet as safe, when it may not be. Also, once a packet has safely entered a network, this does not necessarily mean that the packet is legitimate. Here, software firewalls are beneficial to use as check-points.
Software firewalls are installed on individual workstations in the network, and can be customized, allowing for some control over the protection features. They help protect a computer from Trojans, worms, viruses, or other intrusions. Many software firewalls have user-defined features to create safe file and printer sharing, as well as to block unsafe applications from being launched. Combined with other managed services, software firewalls may also use privacy controls, web filtering, and more.
The main advantage that software firewalls have over hardware is that they can take a closer look at incoming traffic, decide whether the information is malicious, and intercept it before it can do any harm. Also, if software firewalls cannot determine if something is malicious, it can prompt to investigate.
One drawback is that software firewalls only protect the computer on which they are installed, therefore each computer in a network will require individual installation, taking up valuable time and resources.
While hardware and software firewalls are important for any business to have, small and medium-sized businesses may not have the time or budget to install, monitor, and upgrade them when needed. An alternative option is to utilize a Managed Security solution through a reputable Managed Service Provider (MSP). Managed security programs deliver managed firewall protection based on your organization’s individual needs.
Benefits of using an MSP for firewalls needs include 24x7 monitoring and support, up-to-date protection against attacks on emails, networks, and servers, as well as optional components dealing with anti-virus or disaster recovery.
What's the right Solution for You?
Because they perform complementary functions, using hardware and software firewalls together gives an organization a greater degree of protection than using either one alone. However, to maximize your budget while maintaining an optimum level of perimeter security for your business, a Managed Security program may be your ideal solution.
Looking for a better way to manage your organization's perimeter security in the Boston, New York or Philadelphia area? Contact an iCorps representative today for a free firewall consultation.