What is a Firewall and Why is it Necessary for My Business?

We specialise in providing firewalls to businesses – it’s all we do. So, we understand the importance of a hardware firewall to a company, whether a large enterprise or freelancing home worker.

In this post, we’re going to share all that knowledge with you. We’re going to delve into exactly what they are and what they can do for your company.

A pile of business firewalls
There is a large choice of firewalls available today

What is a firewall?

The easiest way to explain a firewall is to describe it as a guard for your network guard.

The firewall monitors incoming traffic to your network and if the visitors don’t meet the requirements of your security rules, they’re blocked from getting in.

By working this way, firewalls prevent hacking, viruses, and other situations that would be detrimental to you, your company, and your customers.

Depending on the type of firewall you use, the guard’s rules will differ. A small business has different security demands to a large, multi-sited enterprise. More advanced models have more complex rules while simple firewall systems simply check the traffic is coming from a trusted source.

A firewall can be either hardware or software – meaning it can either be a program installed onto your computer, such as the one contained in Windows software, or a physical piece of equipment you plug in, like the ones we sell.

The history of business firewalls

The first firewall was invented in 1988 – two years before the invention of the World Wide Web! This was the introduction of the firewall in its earliest stages.

The most basic form of cyber defence has always been identifying sources through a process known as ‘packet filtering’ to determine whether traffic is benign or a potential threat. This was the function of those earliest firewalls.

The development of firewalls

Over time, cyber threats have become more sophisticated, meaning security technology have had to adapt to keep up. There were two generations of firewall that followed the original release; each refined the packet filtering process to be more effective.

However, the first true change in the nature of firewalls didn’t appear until 1994, when HTTP and FTS came into play. Now they could ‘read’ this extra layer of information to better understand the origin of network traffic.

Business firewalls today

The firewalls we have today are known as next generation firewalls. These are the software and hardware that carry a whole host of cybersecurity features, such as data backup, intruder detection, and malware scanning.

Next generation is the type you should be looking for to meet your company’s security needs.

Impression of cyber security risks
Hacking is prevalent today and Firewalls help protect your organisation from it

Firewalls, networks, and the web

Today’s security technology has to integrate with networks and the web.

The three – networks, firewalls, and the web – are all interconnected when it comes to cyber defence. Exactly how a firewall works and the threats it protects against depends on the security rules that have been applied.

A network is a group of computers and devices that are linked together electronically; they’re able to share information and access the same files. Networks allow computers to share resources. This is why all the computers in one office can use the same printer, for example.

On the other hand, the web is an online portal that can be accessed by anyone with a computer device. It’s unrelated to your business network. The web is host to the internet, where you can perform searches, visit sites, and use social media.

Firewalls are used to protect your network both online and offline. This means they can defend you against cyber threats while you are surfing the web but can equally provide protection against other IPs trying to get into your network to look at private files or spread a computer virus.

Why does my business need a firewall?

The main purpose of a firewall is to defend your organisation’s network from cyber risks.

Cyber risks include:

When cyberattacks are successful, the consequences can be dire.

Businesses can lose data and subsequently breach customer confidentiality. Digital assets can be stolen, and digital products can be altered or infected with malware that is passed onto your customers – often without the creators being aware.

Firewalls prevent cyberattacks by strictly applying their security rules to recognise when a source is not trustworthy or presents a threat.

Using firewalls to prevent time theft

As well as being essential to cyber defence, firewalls can also be used to drive productivity in the workplace.

A recent study shows that the average employee spends 4.5 hours a week on non-work related activities – such as browsing the internet. That equates to six weeks a year!

Security rules can be set up on the network to block certain sites that could be deemed disruptive or unfruitful. You can use your business firewall to block sites such as Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube to keep employees on track. Just an added bonus for employers to keep in mind!

Do I need a hardware or software firewall?

Software firewalls

Software firewalls are installed individually onto each computer as a programme. For this reason, we often know them as ‘personal firewalls’. And while software versions may be used for businesses, they’re not the optimal solution.

The good thing about software versions is the customisation options you get with them. With a personal firewall, you can decide exactly which traffic is allowed through to your network and which get blocked. You can set your own security rules.

The downside of software firewalls, however, is that they only protect one computer per program. This can make them timely to install and they’re also less effective than hardware models. This is because they guard only the system on which they’re installed, rather than the whole network.

This means while your personal computer is safe, others on your network may be open to risk.

Managing software firewalls

In some instances, the customisation properties of installed firewalls can be problematic to an employer as it means staff can bypass set security rules. Now, while it’s an issue in itself if a member of staff is browsing Facebook or watching videos on work time, the real problem is the risk unauthorised internet use presents. One virus could take down the whole network.

Hardware firewalls

Hardware firewalls are a much stronger form of network defense as they secure entire networks rather than individual computers. A single appliance can protect hundreds or even thousands of computers within one network.

A hardware firewall will look something like a Wi-Fi router, although the size and shape of the devices will vary a little.

The device will literally sit between your internet access point (cable modem) and your router as a physical and cyber guard.

As a minimum, hardware firewalls use a technique known as ‘packet filtering’ to protect networks. Packet filtering works by deciding whether the incoming traffic source is trustworthy. The packet filter blocks sites that don’t meet its security criteria.

All small business firewalls will use packet filtering – but this is just the most basic layer of cyber protection. You can control what additional features you install.

Pile of sonicwall firewalls
Sonicwall is a great range for the smaller business

Additional features of a good firewall

The most basic to the most advanced models cover the same minimum ground; namely, blocking sites that appear on a known blacklist. However, beyond this, there is a huge scope of difference between firewalls – and it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right features when you invest.

Superior firewalls provide a number of services by defending on multiple levels, such as:

  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Push notifications
  • One-time passwords
  • Unified Threat Management (UTM)
  • SD-WAN technology
  • Data loss protection.

Below, we’ll describe these features in more depth and explain exactly how they protect your business network.

Multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication means you need to provide more than one form of authentication to access a network or programme.

You may have come across multi-factor authentication before on sites such as Amazon. Sometimes, if you log in from a different device, you’ll find that your password alone isn’t enough proof of identity. Often, they’ll email an authentication code or ask an additional security question before you can access your account.

This is an example of multi-factor authentication, and you can apply it to your own network to prevent unauthorised access from people who shouldn’t be trying to get to certain information.

Push notifications

A push notification is a pop-up notice that appears on your mobile phone or desktop to tell you when something unusual has happened.

For example, a firewall may alert you when someone has tried to log in to your network from an unrecognised device. You’re then given the opportunity to approve the login or block access, preventing possible security breaches by would-be hackers.

One-time passwords

One-time passwords, as the name suggests, are single-use passwords that often expire within a set time. The purpose of one-time passwords is both to authenticate your identity and/or to continually renew passwords for added protection against hacking.

Unified Threat Management (UTM)

Unified Threat Management is a feature of some business firewalls that provides security against multiple threats at once. For example, a UTM firewall may simultaneously guard against ransomware, malware, hacking, and data loss.

SD-WAN technology

SD-WAN stands for Software-Defined networking in a Wide Area Network (WAN). It’s a feature that allows wide area networks to operate more intelligently, by directing web traffic according to sets of security rules.

SD-WAN technology also configures and connects networks across multiple locations, making sure all obey the same security guidelines.

Data loss protection

Most often, firewalls protect against data loss by automating regular back-ups.

What is the importance of firewalls for businesses?

According to the UK Office for National Statistics, there have been 535,000 hacking offences in the last year.

Between September 2017 and September 2018, there were:

  • 203,000 cases of bank or credit card fraud with either partial or no reimbursement for loss
  • 166,000 victims of computer viruses with either partial or no reimbursement for loss
  • 470,000 cases of hacking / breaches of personal information.

In total, there were 34,182,000 cybercrimes (including those not listed here) in the UK within that 12-month period.

In short, it’s clear that cybercrime is a huge issue and that when loss does occur, there is no reimbursement in hundreds of thousands of cases.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good!

The importance of a hardware firewall to a business is that it protects you from the huge risk of cybercrime risk in today’s economy.

WatchGuard Licenses thumb
Network security is not an option for today’s workplaces

Choosing a firewall for your company

Choosing the right security hardware can be difficult for many organisations.

There is a temptation to use free software available online, but the problem with this approach is that it’s like using a plaster to patch up a hole in a dam; there is simply too much to hold back.

Unfortunately, cybercrime is rife, and it comes in many forms.

Many cybercriminals are very adept at disguising malware and phishing attempts in numerous disguises. The more sophisticated the business firewall, the more able it is to recognise the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Conducting a risk assessment

To understand what kind of firewall your organisation needs, you first have to conduct a risk assessment. This will help you determine the potential consequences of a breach of cybersecurity.

For a small business firewall, you may be able to find a very cost-effective solution, like the best selling TZ350, for example.

However, when conducting your risk assessment, keep in mind that risk includes not only the potential for financial loss but also the damage to reputation and possible legal ramifications your business might face.

Once you’ve conducted your risk assessment and identified the possible consequences, you’ll be in a position to determine the level and type of security service you need.

Budgeting for a small business firewall

The money you have to spend on a firewall will also play a role in your final decision.

Most software firewalls are charged at a monthly fee, while most firewall hardware for business is a one-off cost followed by support, maintenance and system updates.

Which option you choose will depend on your cash flow and security requirements. To get an example of pricing, look at the SonicWall TZ Range and WatchGuard Firebox T Series.

Trusting the experts for your business firewalls

At Just Firewalls, we’re experts in protecting your business from cyber threats, large and small. We understand how devastating a breach of security can be to your business operations, your profits, and your reputation.

Firewalls are second nature to us. We are experts – we know all there is to know. We provide firewall hardware for complete defence. Our models vary according to the scope of your security needs, your budget, and the size of your organisation.

Take a look at our range of business firewall solutions.

Not sure what you need?

Just Firewalls is here to help. We can discuss your requirements with you and help you find the perfect product that fits your needs and budget.

Why not complete our contact form, or give us a call today? We can talk through your options and offer a no-obligation quote. Protect and support your business today – choose Just Firewalls.