What Are Firewalls and Does Your Business Need Them?
Firewalls are the foundation of cyber defense, made to keep malicious data from entering a network and infecting its devices. What are the best firewalls in 2021?
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Firewalls have always been a must for large organizations, serving as the first line of cyber defense for every device on a network. According to a survey by CyberEdge Group, 86 percent of organizations have suffered at least one cyberattack in 2021, up from 62 percent in 2014.
Given the alarming rise in data theft and the increased adoption of remote work, companies need solid firewalls more than ever. As many seek to bolster their cyber defense capabilities, the size of the global firewall market is expected to reach over $5 billion by 2026, up from $3.3 billion last year.
What does a firewall do?
Essentially, firewalls stop "fires" from spreading through your network. A firewall is a filter that blocks computer viruses, including ransomware and malware, from a computer network. Any given firewall you install protects the devices on your network from data the firewall is configured to recognize as malicious.
Types of firewalls and their differences
The first firewalls came out in the 1980s as networks set up to filter bytes transferred between computers—a concept known as packet filtering. Firewalls that work by filtering packets are still used today, but other types have joined the market since the 1980s. Here are the different kinds of firewalls for consideration:
Like an internet router, a firewall may be a piece of hardware you set up at your physical workplace. A hardware firewall inspects inbound and outbound traffic, acting as a physical filter between the internet and your network. The installation, configuration and upkeep of hardware firewalls requires having professional IT staff, making the option less nimble for organizations compared to software firewalls.
Software firewalls are generally the cheaper option compared to hardware firewalls. However, software firewalls must be installed on your server, which takes up space and demands its processing resources.
Cloud firewalls are a new generation of software firewalls that work on the cloud instead of taking up space on your server. When employees access workloads on their own devices from anywhere in the world, cloud firewalls come in handy for securing data on the go.
Firewall-as-a-service (FaaS) solutions allow you to essentially outsource firewalls so that your IT department can focus on other cybersecurity tasks. With a third party managing your firewall, handling its maintenance and troubleshooting, you can carve a chunk out of your IT budget.
Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs)
While cybercriminals have increased their sophistication in recent years, so have firewalls. Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) can put out more fires by monitoring more traffic.
The NGFW market size was valued at $3.27 billion in 2020, according to Markets and Markets. What's the big appeal for large organizations? NGFWs are more resource efficient compared to traditional firewalls and offer advanced features like generating insights on the safety of your network. There are more product integrations, and their upkeep is mostly automated.
For example, NGFWs can be integrated with your SD-WAN to manage security across your wide area network, including edge devices and remote connections. This also allows you to segregate traffic to avoid lateral movement.
How many firewalls do you need?
Depending on an organization's size and type, a comprehensive data security plan can include more than one firewall. If your business has less than 1,000 users actively on the network, you probably only need one firewall. If you have multiple internet connections, you'll need a firewall for each. Plus, a cloud firewall or FaaS subscription to secure workloads accessed remotely on the cloud. Alternatively, SD-WAN integrated with an NGFW can monitor traffic regardless of location or connectivity.
The best firewall solution for your business
Large organizations and small businesses alike can become victims of a cyberattack, causing significant economic setbacks and downtime. While firewalls aren't the only cybersecurity a company needs, they do a lot of the heavy lifting that goes into keeping you safe.
Regularly assessing the efficacy of your firewalls and keeping them up to date with your organization's needs are critical for getting the most out of this technology.