What is a Firewall?
In business, network security’s first line of defense is the firewall. The term “firewall” suggests a powerful, effective means of preventing unwanted intrusion. In fact, the most oft-used image to illustrate a firewall is that of a brick wall standing between a computer and a globe, representing the Internet. This image of strength, however, is only as accurate from the standpoint of a regularly updated firewall.
How do Firewalls Work?
While a firewall isn’t a physical brick-and-mortar barrier, it can be created via hardware, software, or a combination of both. A predetermined rule set helps the firewall to analyze traffic packets seeking entry or exit through the barrier, and allow or reject the traffic based on the security criteria. Businesses that have multiple computers, multiple users, and multiple locations, and that store or transmit sensitive data such as personal or credit card information have a great deal of traffic in and out and require a firewall that can meet these security demands.
Large companies often address this issue with an in-house IT security department, tasked with designing, installing and maintaining a managed firewall on site. Smaller businesses, however, can benefit from outsourcing this portion of their IT security. But no matter how big or how small your business, a firewall is a necessary part of your network security.
What is a Managed Firewall?
A managed firewall is one that is custom-built for the business that will be using it, maintained by a dedicated team of IT security specialists. In the case of large companies, a managed firewall may be the responsibility of an in-house staff. For mid-size to smaller businesses, a managed firewall is often outsourced to a third party.
Managed firewalls begin with a security audit that determines the needs of a business with regard to its firewall. Once the audit identifies the security needs, the firewall is built and installed, using state-of-the-art technology, and off-site analysts monitor and manage all areas of the firewall, including software updates and troubleshooting. The firewall is monitored around the clock and any security issues that arise are addressed immediately.
Managed firewalls maintained through outsourcing to a third-party company allow a business to focus on daily operations without undue concern over the security of their information. Outsourcing this task eliminates the expense of maintaining a staff for this purpose, while at the same time ensuring that sensitive data is protected at all times.
Firewalls “In the Cloud”
A more recent trend in managed firewalls foregoes dedicated hardware on-site in favor of off-site firewalls, with distinct advantages. Known as firewalls “in the cloud” these services are just one more facet of in the trend of cloud-based computing. The advantages to a cloud-based firewall include scalability, availability, and extensibility.
Scalability: On-premise firewalls must be replaced when bandwidth exceeds throughput, often at the expense of productivity. Cloud-based firewalls, however, are immediately scalable, meeting increased demand as well as completely adjustable if bandwidth usage declines.
Availability: Where on-premise firewalls are only as reliable as the existing IT infrastructure, cloud-based firewalls are available with a full host of protections in place, including backup power, network services, and backup strategies.
Extensibility: For companies that operate in multiple locations, network services may extend beyond the boundaries of service providers, meaning that on-premise firewalls may need to be placed in several locations. Cloud-based firewalls, on the other hand, are available anywhere there is a protected communications path.
For preventing unwanted intrusion and protecting sensitive data, a firewall is among the most important IT security protocols. Navigating the options available in firewall technology requires a thorough assessment of a company’s needs and capabilities. Managed firewalls, whether on-premise or cloud-based, provide the highest levels of security for the transfer of data.
What kind of firewall does your company use?