A firewall provides a foundation for a network security architecture. Firewalls are designed to define network perimeter and inspect traffic crossing these perimeters for malicious content, sensitive data leakage, or other threats. A firewall is a crucial component of a corporate security program because it serves as a first line of defense against external threats. Limiting the types of traffic that can enter the network and blocking many threats from gaining access dramatically reduces corporate cybersecurity risk.
Some of the main types of firewalls include:
Since firewalls come with a variety of functions as well as various shapes and sizes, there are a few aspects to consider when selecting the right one.
Different size businesses have different firewall needs. Depending on the protection that it provides (from packet filtering to full threat prevention), a firewall has a certain maximum throughput. Traffic volumes that exceed this threshold will cause latency as the firewall fails to keep up. A firewall should be sized to meet the network needs of an organization. An SMB will have much smaller firewall throughput needs than an enterprise. Even within the realm of enterprise firewalls, there are different options available for mid-sized, large, and high-end enterprises. Corporate data centers also have their own needs and firewall requirements.
In the past, most organizations had all of their employees and IT infrastructure on-site. However, the growth of the cloud and remote work has caused this to change. For organizations with a remote workforce, a hardware firewall protecting the headquarters network at every location might not be the right choice. Likewise, connecting remote offices to the Internet and cloud applications through a corporate firewall may not deliver the best user experience.
Cloud-based firewall-as-a-service solutions protect an organization’s assets and users wherever they are. They can be deployed in a fraction of the time when compared with physical on-premises firewalls. They also deliver both security and an optimal network user experience for connecting to cloud applications and the Internet vs solutions that route remote traffic back through a corporate security stack.
Firewalls are not a “set it and forget it” security solution. They have rulesets that need to be configured and regularly updated and should be monitored for events and alerts that point to potential security incidents. All of this requires IT and security expertise as well as time and resources. If an organization lacks the in-house security expertise needed to manage its firewalls or its security team lacks the bandwidth to do so, then a managed firewall might be a better option than an in-house one. Firewall management is a common part of managed security services, and a third-party provider may also offer support for incident response based on detected intrusions.
Many organizations have sprawling security architectures composed of many standalone solutions. While these may provide good threat coverage, they make it difficult to effectively monitor and manage these solutions. An NGFW should offer threat visibility and policy management in a single console. This includes the ability to dig into security alerts with actionable threat intelligence.
Corporate IT architectures are rapidly growing more diverse. Many businesses have hybrid data centers with both on-premises and cloud applications and workloads. All organizations also likely have Internet of Things (IoT) devices connected to their network. All of these devices introduce new security risks and have unique security requirements. Depending on the assets that an organization wishes to protect, it may need a firewall that offers specialized functionality. IT, OT, IoT and cloud security are very different, and a firewall needs to understand the unique types of traffic generated by these devices to secure them effectively.
Choosing the right firewall is essential to the security of your business. An undersized firewall or one lacking crucial security capabilities can negatively impact network performance or leave your organization vulnerable to attack. Learn more about firewalls and how to pick the right one with this buyer’s guide to NGFWs.