What is a firewall?

When you think of a firewall, you might imagine a physical wall of fire, blocking unwanted intruders from entering your computer or network. However, a firewall is actually a software or hardware system that acts as a protective barrier between your computer or network and the internet. Let’s dive into what a firewall is and how it works, including the increasingly popular cloud-based firewall.

Think of your computer or network as a castle, and the internet as the outside world. A firewall is like a moat around your castle, protecting it from invaders. Just like the people living in the castle have rules for who they allow to cross the drawbridge over the moat to enter, a firewall has particular rules that dictate what traffic can enter and exit your network.

How does a firewall work?

When a device on your network attempts to download information from the internet, the firewall first checks the traffic against its rules. If the traffic is allowed, the firewall lets it pass through to the requesting device. If the traffic is not allowed, the firewall blocks it, like the drawbridge preventing entry into a castle.

Firewalls can be configured to block certain types of traffic, such as incoming requests from outside sources, or allow certain types of traffic, such as outgoing requests to specific websites. They can also be configured to allow certain users or devices to access specific parts of the network while restricting access for others.

What types of firewall are there?

There are three main types of firewall:

  • Individual device firewalls.

  • Specialized hardware firewalls.

  • Cloud-based or local software firewalls.

Individual device firewalls are installed on end-user devices such as your computer or smartphone. They are often included with your operating system and can be configured to block certain types of traffic. However, they are pretty basic and they only protect the device on which they are installed - not the entire network.

Hardware firewalls, on the other hand, are physical devices that sit between your network and the internet. They are often used in larger organizations or businesses to protect the entire network. Hardware firewalls can be configured to block incoming traffic from outside sources while allowing outgoing traffic from within the network. They can also be configured to block specific types of traffic, such as peer-to-peer file sharing or certain “black-listed” websites.

Cloud-based software firewalls, also known as virtual firewalls, are software that you install in the cloud or locally on your own chosen server. Cloud-based firewalls provide all of the functionality of hardware firewalls, and are easier to deploy and set up quickly. They are also much more flexible and scalable, as you choose the performance you need to protect your business – and you can easily upgrade the capacity and performance when required.

Central protection and management.

Cloud-based firewalls allow you to have central protection for multiple business locations, and can work seamlessly with hardware firewalls, at say each branch office location, to provide a cohesive company-wide security solution. Both hardware and cloud-based software firewalls often also include threat management features that automatically stay updated with the latest malware and virus signature databases to better protect your network.  

Centralized management and security monitoring of your network, using a single-pane-of-glass management tool, provides an easy way to manage, configure, and update firewall rules across your entire network, including remote and mobile users.

In conclusion.

Firewalls act as protective barriers between your computer or network and the internet, keeping you safe from unwanted intruders. They can be individual device-specific, or network wide hardware or cloud-based software, and are essential for protecting your network from outside threats. Whether you choose a hardware or cloud-based software network firewall, it is crucial to keep it up-to-date with the latest software updates, security patches, and malware signature information, and many firewalls do this with an automatic daily download of the latest updates.

What does Allied Telesis offer?

We have a range of hardware firewalls and a cloud-based firewall, AR4000S-Cloud, which supports speeds up to 100Gbps. Best-of-breed security features provide up-to-the-minute threat protection, combined with an advanced firewall, SD-WAN automated inter-branch traffic optimization, and comprehensive networking capability. On some models, the GUI includes Vista Manager mini, which enables you to to manage and monitor the performance of your wireless network from your firewall, removing the need for a separate network management tool.