Pretty much everyone has heard the term “firewall” by now. You may not know the nitty-gritty details, but you’ve heard the term. (Feel free to read our post about the basics of firewalls.) If you start looking for a firewall, the choice and information can overwhelm you. Below, we rank the general firewall types and explain their basic use. We could easily dive deeper into each type and include a lot of fancy buzz words, but most people can only handle so much geek.
OK – The Free Firewall
Both PCs and Macs come with a free software firewall built right into the operating system. This could provide enough protection for you unless you handle sensitive customer information. It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing. Keep in mind that software firewalls only protect individual devices. This fact makes it hard to manage for businesses with more than one person.
Windows 10 enables the Microsoft Defender firewall by default. You can verify this by going to Settings -> Update & Security -> Windows Security. You should see a green checkmark on the “Firewall & network protection section.”
Macs don’t enable the firewall by default. We’re not sure why, but we do recommend turning it on. Launch System Preference and go to the Security & Privacy section. Switch to the Firewall tab, and then click the “Turn On Firewall” button.
Good – Third-Party Software Firewalls
We recommend more security when handling sensitive customer information like credit cards, addresses, or personal data. At a minimum, you should start with a third-party software firewall. These can stack on top of your computer’s built-in firewall or replace it completely. They can also offer a lot more features. Tons of possibilities exist here, but try to find something with deep packet inspection and anti-spam functions.
Better – Firewall Router
While software firewalls help, don’t stop there. Adding a firewall router moves your firewall to the hardware level and increases protection even further. When combined with antivirus software, you have a good amount of protection. This is really the lowest amount of security that we would recommend to any client.
The biggest benefit here lies in the ability to protect the entire network. All internet traffic flows through it. Even if you don’t activate the software firewall on your device, the hardware firewall can stop malicious traffic before it ever reaches another device. It also protects your WiFi devices. Some options will also allow you to block specific traffic categories that you deem inappropriate at work.
Best – Unified Threat Management (UTM)
Far and away, we recommend UTM devices over the rest. A variety of options exist. These can include either hardware, software, cloud-based, or a combo of the three. Most offer a combination of firewall, antivirus, VPN, and protection services that work together as a unified system. Each area communicates with each other and dramatically increases the protection level of your network.
Picking the right combination for your business can be difficult. Besides features, you must consider hardware capability, throughput, and more. Purchasing underpowered hardware can slow your network down to a crawl.
Not Sure What To Pick?
Even after picking a type, a myriad of options makes choosing a firewall difficult. Most likely, you’re not planning to become a firewall expert. Instead, just ask us! We’ll analyze your network and your business needs from top to bottom. From there, we’ll tell you exactly which firewall you need and why. Request a consultation today and get started on the path to a more secure network!