Introduction

A Firewall is a Cybersecurity tool widely used to secure computer networks from unauthorised users. A Firewall is used for information security and can be a Hardware Firewall or a Software Firewall or a combination of both depending on the requirements of the client.

In this Article:

  1. What is a Hardware Firewall
  2. Different Hardware Firewalls
  3. Best Hardware Firewall
  4. How do Hardware Firewalls work
  5. Benefits of a Hardware Firewall
  6. Features to consider for a Hardware Firewall
  7. What does a Hardware Firewall do

1) What is a Hardware Firewall

A Hardware Firewall is a physical device or a set of physical devices which act as the first line of defence for a computer network. A very basic hardware Firewall example is a router that is normally used in most of the households with Wi-Fi Fibernet connections.

A simple hardware Firewall definition is that it is a physical device which connects a computer or an organisational computer network to the external network or internet by acting as a barrier to protect them from unauthorised users with malicious intent.

2) Different Hardware Firewalls

There are many vendors of a hardware Firewall. The type of hardware and vendor is dependent on the requirements of an organisation.

Many factors are to be considered before finalising on the selection of a Firewall.

  • The level of protection required for the computer network.
  • The area of operation of the company. For example, if it involved in the defence sector, then it requires the most advanced Firewall possible to plug any breach of data related to national security.
  • The budget amount available for implementing the Firewall.
  • The human resources required for maintaining the Firewall.
  • The reliability and after-sales support reputation of the vendors.
  • The availability of regular upgrades.

There are different hardware Firewalls available. Here is a hardware Firewalls list of the most popular major vendors catering to the business houses looking to secure data against leakage and theft.

  • CISCO PIX Firewall.
  • Checkpoint.
  • Sun’s iForce VPN/Firewall.
  • Fortinet.
  • Watchguard.
  • Sophos.
  • Forcepoint.
  • Juniper SRX.
  • D-Link and Linksys for home systems.
  • Sidewinder G2.
  • Sonic WALL.
  • Palo Alto.
  • Fortinet.
  • Barracuda NEXTGEN Firewall.

The wide range, sophistication and cost implications can be gauged from the small comparison between D-Link, which is a simple basic Firewall for home or small office requirements, with the pricey CISCO Fix Firewall which comes in configurations that can support up to a phenomenal 500,000 connections. 

Some hardware Firewall devices are similar to Personal Computers which are exclusively designed and configured to perform the role of a Firewall. Some types are called solid-state as they have no moving parts but use flash memory instead of hard disks.  Such systems are faster and more reliable without the accompanying breakdown problems related to mechanical moving parts.

3) Best Hardware Firewall

We will now have a look at the best hardware Firewalls for the small business segment.

  • A few of the top hardware Firewalls for small enterprises are:
  • Ubiquiti Edge Router which is a simple router.
  • CISCO NGFW which is the best enterprise Firewall.
  • Firewalla is the best one for home businesses.
  • SonicWALL is the one for data-dependent organisations.
  • Fortinet is the best overall Firewall.

4) How do Hardware Firewalls work

The question of How does Hardware Firewalls work needs some explanation for the uninitiated. Normally, a hardware Firewall comes as a single unit with proprietary software pre-installed at the source. This makes the selection less complicated as there is no need to choose a separate compatible software package to run the hardware. While some hardware Firewalls work on general operating systems like Linux, most of the Firewalls come with their proprietary operating systems which are specifically designed and configured to run the related software. This is a big security advantage as the general operating systems might have some vulnerabilities which can be exploited by the hackers to gatecrash into the system’s defences.

5) Benefits of a Hardware Firewall

A hardware Firewall relies on the hardware to perform the function of data package filtering for information security. Major benefits of a hardware Firewall are

  • One of the main advantages of a hardware Firewall is that It has reduced latency, which is the time required to process a packet.
  • Another major advantage is that it has an increased bandwidth, which is the ability to process a higher number of data packets per second.
  • It controls the information data traffic based on a set of rules.
  • It might free up additional resources from the server as the software for the Firewall can be outside the server.
  • A hardware Firewall can run a VPN connection. This brings in a higher level of encryption and security to the network. This enables the provision of access to authorised users even when they are travelling or working from outside.

However, one major disadvantage of a hardware-based Firewall is that it is difficult and costly to upgrade, as physical devices have to be changed, unlike a software Firewall which just needs up-gradation of a software application.

6) Features to consider for a Hardware Firewall

Some of the hardware Firewall features which need to be considered while selecting a Firewall for an organisation are:

  • ·VPN: This is critical if an extremely secure Firewall is required. VPN provides site-to-site encryption. This will make the user invisible to even the hackers as he will be only seen as using a VPN Server.
  • ·High Availability: with the secondary Firewall taking over the security in case of the primary Firewall breaking down. This is important for critical data-centric organisations.
  • Packet Filtering: device like a router is sufficient for smaller companies.
  • Stateful inspection: Firewalls which look into the information in the data packets are required for the medium enterprises.
  • Proxy Firewall: This hides the origin of the user and gives anonymity.
  • ·Host-based Firewall: They operate on a single computer. For more systems, each one will need to have an individual Firewall.
  • Network Firewalls: This is required for a network made up of many computers.
  • Enterprise Firewalls: These incorporate most of the sophisticated features like VPN, which are required for top-end security in large corporations.

7) What does a Hardware Firewall do

By now, it must be reasonably clear about the question of what does a hardware Firewall do. Some of the protections it offers are.

  • Any data packet coming into the network has to first clear the Firewall which acts as a barrier between the internal systems and the external internet.
  •  A hardware Firewall prevents hackers and remote access.
  • It protects information data by filtering unauthorised users and suspicious data from coming into the system.
  • It operates on a set of rules set by the company for information security.
  • It ensures better privacy and security.
  • It protects from Trojans.
  • A network-based Firewall, like a router, can offer protection to multiple systems connected to the server.

Conclusion

A Hardware Firewall is a device or set of devices used to protect individual computers or a network of computers from the threat of information or data leakage. It acts by filtering out requests from unauthorised users to access data. Finally, despite all the resources spent and a dedicated team in charge, we still keep hearing about incidents of huge data leakages from major corporates. This can only be prevented by constant vigilance, up-gradation and monitoring of the systems without any complacency.

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