Firewalls are the shielding layer that lies between the internet and the computer network. It helps in preventing any unauthorized access to your network. The main function of the firewall is scrutinizing the new data entering your network along with the data that already exists in the network depending on network configuration. The information coming from any source that is not secured or suspicious locations is ignored.
The firewall is situated at a network gateway server and works closely with the router. The firewall analyzes every network packet at this stage. As a firewall is installed on a separate computer, any network request reaches it first and then moves. Through a firewall it is also possible to get remote access to a private network through secure authentication credentials.
Firewalls are of two types; hardware firewall and software firewall. Generally, a firewall configuration will consist of both.
A hardware firewall prevents inceptions from any outside intruders. Hardware firewalls are incorporated into the router that is situated between a computer and an Internet gateway. Every packet is filtered by the hardware firewall for determining information like origin, destination addresses.
This information is then compared to a set of user-defined rules that further determine if the packet should be forwarded or blocked. Irrespective of a wired or wireless router installed, it is essential to check it to see if a hardware firewall is already installed.
Related: Hardware Firewall – An Overview
The advantages of a hardware firewall include the following:
- A single hardware firewall provides protection for the complete network, this is a very efficient feature for the companies having multiple computers.
- As the hardware firewall do not operate on your computers, the system performance and speed is not affected.
- Hardware firewalls work perfectly for businesses that use a broadband Internet connection, like DSL or cable modem.
- A hardware firewall is not easily vulnerable to any malicious software unlike software firewalls.
- As only one hardware firewall has to be installed for the network, it is an affordable option.
- Configuration of a hardware firewall is difficult therefore a novice might not be able to install it.
- The traffic going out from the website is considered safe by the hardware firewall, this can create an issue if malware, penetrates your network and tries to connect to the internet.
A software firewall is installed on individual computers/servers. It intercepts every request by the network for connecting to the computer and after this, it determines if the request is valid or not. Software firewalls can also be configured for checking any suspicious outgoing requests. The software firewall is a preferred choice for the people having personal PC at home. A software firewall can also be customized; therefore the user has some control over the functions and the protection features.
Related: What Is A Web Application Firewall?
It protects your computer from outside attempts for gaining access to your computer. A lot of software firewalls enable user-defined controls for executing safe file and printer sharing and for blocking any unsafe applications from operating on your system. Only one system or network is protected by the software firewall, therefore if your network consists of many systems you will have to install a software firewall on each of them.
The advantages of a software firewall are mentioned below:
- Even the top-rated software firewalls are affordable and they prove to be an economical choice for an office that has a setup of the limited number of systems.
- Software firewalls are easy to configure as compared to the hardware routers.
- The level of protection required can be determined with just a few clicks during the installation process. The level of security can be defined in accordance to the machine or user.
- There is higher flexibility. You can determine which applications should be allowed the access, thus reducing the possibility of malware intrusion.
- Its portable. A software firewall provides protection for the computer it’s installed on irrespective of where the computer is connected. This is a crucial feature for business travelers with laptops.
- Software firewalls utilize more system resources, like disk space and memory than hardware firewalls, this might reduce the speed of your system.
- The user has to purchase a separate copy for every computer connected to the network, increasing the total charges.
- It is not possible to configure the software firewalls to mask your IP address. Instead, they close unused ports and monitor the traffic activity from other ports.
- In order to provide the best protection to your computer or network, it is advisable to use both the hardware and the software firewall, as each one of them offers with distinct but much-needed security features and benefits. It is essential to keep testing your firewall to check if it is functioning properly. Moreover, it is essential to update the firewall and operating system at regular intervals in or to ensure complete protection.