What is a Firewall?

What is a Firewall?

Most companies rely on technology and internet for their business needs. From communicating via email and social media to researching and selling products online, the Internet can impact the facilitation of logistical and financial transactions for companies across a variety of industries. While the Internet is a wonderful and convenient tool for businesses, it can become a source of financial loss and data-related destruction within a company. After all, the Internet is full of hackers looking to access private company information, and malware can be inadvertently downloaded all too easily. Since using Internet can be vital to a company’s success, it is imperative that business owners find a way to allow employees to use the Internet while protecting company data and assets. This is where the term “firewall” comes into play.

A firewall is a device that helps protect a network of computers and technology equipment from outside intruders. Firewalls are programmed to follow a series of customized security guidelines, or “rules.” If a firewall detects data communication traveling through a company network that does not match the predefined rules, then that communication is blocked from entering or leaving the network, or logged and an alert is triggered. Firewalls, when set up properly, can be effective in protecting a company’s Information Technology (IT) systems from attack while enabling authorized data and necessary data communication to reach end users. The challenge, however, lies in setting up rules that will render a firewall effective. Not only is the specificity of each rule important, but so too is the order in which firewall rules are processed. Firewalls can be put into operation in the form of hardware, software, or a combination of both.

David Cochrane is president of 30A.it, a national IT management company that offers an array of technical services to small to medium businesses across the country. According to him, when it comes to protecting a company from internet-related threats, firewalls are a necessity. After all, most small to medium businesses operate by having all company computers connected to a shared network. This enables employees to access and share company information easily, and function better as a team. The problem with this sort of arrangement, however, is that a single user has the ability to take down the company’s entire network by exposing their machine to a source of net-based malice. After all, if every computer within a business is connected to a single network, then once one machine becomes infiltrated and infected, the rest of the business’s computers are subject to meet a similar fate. It is therefore essential that business owners take steps to protect their IT networks by implementing proper IT security measures, including using a firewall on their internet connection.

So how do these nifty devices work? The exact science behind firewalls can be a little tricky, especially since different types of firewalls use varying methods of controlling the traffic that goes in and out of networks. The most common firewall technique is known as packet filtering, which analyzes small clusters of data known as “packets” against a set of pre-determined filters. Packets that fit the criteria as established by the rules are allowed to pass through the firewall and arrive at the intended destination (such as a user’s machine), while packets that don’t fit the rules are denied network entry. Of course, more complicated firewalls are out there that use advanced techniques of inspecting communications and applying criteria.

In order to determine which means of protection will work best for their companies, small to medium business owners should be prepared to discuss their employees’ work-related needs and habits with trusted IT professionals at 30A.it who are capable of setting up firewalls. Remember, a good firewall will help protect company systems while also allowing the business to function as efficiently as possible. The last thing that any business owner would want is a firewall that, while doing its job, prevents key communications from reaching those in need.

The Internet can certainly be an integral part of conducting business, but it has some drawbacks. By installing firewalls, business owners can protect their data and equipment to ensure that when it comes to their companies, the Internet-related good far outweighs the bad.

Author: David Cochrane
Microsoft Certified Professional, CompTIA Network+
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