| 3 min read

Why a Robust Network Firewall is Essential to Business Operations

Every minute of every day, attackers are scanning your corporate network, trying to break in so they can lock up your files with ransomware or disable your systems with viruses.

The first line of defense is a firewall. Firewalls are like a traffic cop, blocking all incoming network traffic and then deciding which to let through based on a set of complex rules.

Firewalls use ports, or endpoints for different types of incoming traffic, to determine which traffic should be allowed in. For example, a firewall can be set to allow traffic bound for the port associated with your website to enter, so that outsiders can get to the website.

Is It Worth It to Buy a High-End Firewall?

Firewalls range from inexpensive, off-the-shelf models meant for home or small business users to expensive – and more sophisticated – models. Slide1

Low-end firewalls often cost less because they have smaller processors and less memory. This means they don’t process incoming traffic and send it on its way as quickly. If you’re paying for a high-speed internet connection, you won’t see the benefit of it if your firewall becomes a bottleneck that slows traffic on your network. 

This doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive firewall. But you should take into account a firewall’s speed – and how it will affect your overall network performance.

Essential Firewall Capabilities

It’s also important to know what capabilities you need in a firewall. Two key features:

  • Intrusion detection. Malicious network traffic often follows common patterns, and firewalls can detect and block incoming data that follows these patterns. Insurance companies may ask, when writing cyber security policies, if your firewall includes intrusion detection.
  • Geo-blocking. A firewall can also block traffic based on where it is coming from geographically. Ransomware, for example, tends to originate from a handful of countries where enforcement isn’t strong, so blocking traffic from those countries could reduce – though not eliminate – the risk of a ransomware attack. Of course, you have to be careful to not overdo the blocking. Some firewalls may have a default setting to block all traffic that originates outside the United States. That may work for some companies, but others might have vendors or customers in Canada, for example, and that firewall setting would impede their business rather than help it.

Getting the Most From Your Firewall

A firewall needs to be set up and configured properly. The exact settings will depend both on the specifics of your network and on how much protection you need. The safest network would be completely closed off from outside traffic – but that would not allow your business to operate.

The U.S. does not set standards regarding what sort of firewall businesses should put in place, so you’ll need to work with a professional with expertise in network security to determine exactly what type of network traffic your business needs to allow in from the outside. Then, the firewall should be set so it blocks other types of traffic.

It’s also helpful to have an IT professional on hand to tweak the network as you go along. That way, if you realize one day that your firewall is set to block all traffic that originates outside the U.S. but you need to correspond with a supplier in Mexico, you can make the necessary adjustments quickly.

Making adjustments without the proper expertise can be risky, though: A common problem cause of security holes is people changing firewall settings to allow all inbound traffic when something isn’t working. This may allow the traffic you want to get through, but it also opens the door to ransomware and other attacks.

In addition, complex network tasks like setting up and monitoring a site-to-site VPN will likely require professional help.

Having an IT professional available to help with these tweaks – whether it’s someone on your staff full-time or someone available through a service provider – will help ensure that your firewall restricts malicious traffic without restricting your business.

Firewalls are a foundational part to your business’s growth and security. After all, all IT systems are composed of interconnected parts and any one weak point can create risk for the entire system and affect your business. Seeking more information about how to improve your IT system, please download the eBook titled "Built to Scale: IT System Designed for Growth" to learn more about improving your IT solution for better productivity.

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