Firewalls allow access to legitimate network traffic and block external threats before they damage critical assets.

All internet-facing businesses need some form of firewall. However, the type of firewall you choose can vary. Types of firewalls to think about include:

  • Next-generation firewalls
  • Packet filtering firewalls
  • Circuit-level gateways
  • Stateful inspection firewalls

Additionally, we can divide firewalls into hardware and software firewalls. Check out this guide to the types of firewall for more information about what they are and how they work.

This article will explore the benefits of firewall protection for businesses. We will check out the strengths and weaknesses of different firewall security solutions, and help you reinforce your network protection.

Benefits of NGFWs

Next-generation firewalls are the most advanced versions available. NGFW tools feature inspection technology found in other firewall security technologies. But they add other functions such as malware and virus scanning.

Next-generation firewalls cover almost all OSI network layers. They gather data that informs security controls, enabling IT teams to identify and fix vulnerabilities.

Benefits of next-generation firewalls include:

1. Centralized control

IT teams can control NGFW systems from a single application. Administrators can deliver firewall updates across the entire network centrally. Security teams can keep pace with emerging threats and avoid security gaps.

2. Simplicity

Firewalls should be simple to use. Administrators must extend protection rapidly across all network infrastructure. The simplified architecture of NGFW software makes this possible.

Companies can reshape their firewall architecture quickly and easily. Admins can manage changing user communities and data flows. This enables dynamic network protection that adapts when needed.

3. Multi-layered protection

NGFW systems do not rely on a single destination port. They work on multiple network layers. As a result, next-generation firewalls can monitor traffic precisely and reliably.

For instance, next-generation firewalls usually function at the application layer. They are able to analyze network traffic within applications, achieving far more awareness of data flows and potential threats.

4. Combined protection against critical threats

Firewalls do not operate alone. Network security systems can include firewalls, antivirus scanners, and anti-malware tools. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools may also be present.

Next-generation firewalls combine vital network security functions. They integrate virus and malware protection as well as logging capabilities. These additional tools detect critical threats that other firewalls miss.

5. In-depth data inspection

Traditional firewalls monitor superficial packet information when deciding what to block. Next-generation firewalls add Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to the mix.

DPI delivers far more information about the content and origins of data packets. The firewall can identify potential trojans or other malware threats. Threat identification isn't possible with less-advanced firewall varieties.

IT teams have more control over allowing and denying access. This contributes to the main goal of firewall protection. The firewall can admit legitimate traffic, while unauthorized users won't be able to gain access.

6. Fast speeds at high data volumes

Traditional firewalls struggle when networks scale. Large data throughput can lead to security bottlenecks and poor network performance. By contrast, NGFW solutions perform well as network capacity expands. Companies can blend robust security with the speed that users require.

Benefits of packet filtering firewalls

Packet filtering firewalls (PFFs) operate at OSI level 3 (the network layer). They inspect information presented by data packets entering a network. This includes source and destination IP addresses, source and destination ports, and protocol information.

PFFs apply security rules to each packet. Packets that do not meet these conditions are rejected. The firewall sends a request to resend until data packets meet the network's security conditions.

PFFs allow IT teams to block IP addresses defined as unsafe. This can include IP address allowlisting to enable legitimate access. However, packet filters only examine superficial data. They do not inspect packet contents.

Benefits of packet filtering firewalls include:

1. High efficiency levels

PFFs generally deliver better speeds and general network performance than other firewall varieties. Firewalls can process access requests based on simple packet information. All PFFs require is information about source ports, destination ports, and IP addresses. This limits data overheads at the server level.

2. Costs

PFFs are a cost-effective security solution. They come with server technology or network architecture products. But implementing packet filtering systems from scratch is also an affordable option.

3. Simple installation and transparency

Pack filtering systems are easy to set up in most network settings. IT teams can install them on one or more screening routers to provide basic network protection. There is usually no need to make complex network alterations or calibrate firewalls in-depth.

Benefits of circuit-level gateways

Circuit-level gateways (CLGs) work at OSI level 5 (the session layer). These firewalls exist between external devices and local networks. They inspect TCP and UDP data before allowing users to open sessions.

Benefits of CLGs include:

1. Network anonymity

A circuit-level gateway effectively anonymizes the networks they protect. Traffic originating within the network passes through the gateway before proceeding to its destination. Destination devices only see the gateway, which can act as a mask to make web traffic anonymous.

2. Low costs

CLGs are usually affordable to implement due to the simplicity of their design. All they do is validate TCP handshakes when opening sessions. This does not require sophisticated packet inspection technology.

3. Speed and efficiency

The simplicity of circuit-level gateways also means they have minimal impact on network performance. This type of firewall will rarely slow down network connections or compromise workloads.

Benefits of stateful firewalls

Stateful firewalls operate at the OSI layer 3 (the network layer). They store information from sessions and use this information to assess future connections. Stateful firewalls store data about all active transfer protocols, including TCP, FTP, and UDP.

Unlike "stateless" alternatives, stateful firewalls use context to understand an entire connection. They can also look inside data packets, not just at their exterior. Content analysis enables them to apply more precise controls to application traffic.

Advantages of stateful firewalls include:

1. In-depth digital protection

Stateful firewalls provide more robust network protection than packet filters or CLGs. This is because stateful firewalls track a greater range of data. They can monitor TCP information, identify traffic patterns, and even create encrypted tunnels if required.

With more information about traffic flows, IT teams can deny illicit connections, identify malicious software, and secure data more effectively.

2. Dynamic logging

Stateless firewalls generate data that IT teams can use to audit or refine network security. This style of firewall is dynamic. Stateful tools can learn from previous attacks, blocking similar traffic in the future.

IT teams can set up logging processes to assess traffic patterns. Logs may isolate areas of improvement or weakness, while the information also helps achieve regulatory goals.

Disadvantages of traditional firewalls

Traditional firewalls include packet filters, circuit-level gateways, and application-level gateways. These firewall types lack dynamic features and do not learn from previous actions. Traditional firewalls also tend to apply to on-premises environments, not cloud settings.

Traditional firewalls have a number of potential drawbacks, including:

1. Limited inspection capabilities

Traditional firewalls operate at a single network layer. They do not have the ability to look inside data packets or control access within applications. Instead, they rely on external markers to assess network access requests.

Without tools like Deep Packet Inspection malicious agents may breach network assets. And firewalls will rarely alert users to malicious websites. That's why businesses tend to seek NGFW systems to protect critical resources.

2. Slow adaptation to new situations

Older firewalls do not adapt to rapidly changing network environments. They are poorly equipped to monitor cloud applications and do not scale efficiently as businesses expand.

IT teams need the ability to protect all network assets, and they require visibility of the network edge. Next-generation firewalls provide this level of awareness, making it possible to apply security policies from a central location.

3. Static operational processes

Newer firewalls are dynamic. They can learn from network activity and fine-tune the protection they deliver. Traditional firewalls tend to be static. They apply pre-defined security rules and do not adapt. They won't learn to handle emerging threats. IT teams will need to keep security rules up to date.

4. Speed issues

Traditional firewall systems may be simple, but they aren't always fast. Packet or protocol inspection processes can create traffic bottlenecks that reduce network speeds. Newer firewalls avoid single inspection points and result in a better user experience.

Disadvantages of hardware firewalls

Firewalls can also be installed as software or delivered in specialist hardware.

Hardware firewalls have been popular for decades. They are separate devices that filter traffic entering and leaving the network. Hardware firewalls provide on-site protection for specific assets. But they do have some drawbacks. Disadvantages include:

1. Maintenance and installation

Most importantly, hardware firewalls are separate devices. They are not applications that IT teams can distribute to all network devices. Instead, they are pieces of equipment that require installation by trained security professionals.

Misconfigured firewalls can be as dangerous as no protection at all. Companies incur significant costs when making sure their hardware firewall meets security standards.

Additionally, hardware-based firewalls require regular maintenance. IT teams must check they are functioning properly. They must patch firewall firmware to stay up to date. And admins must double-check that the firewall covers all critical assets.

2. Ergonomics

Hardware-based firewalls consume valuable office space and represent a physical point of failure. Companies seeking an uncluttered working environment with minimal wiring may prefer software-based alternatives.

3. Inflexibility

Hardware solutions are generally less flexible than software or SaaS systems. Companies using hardware firewalls may need to increase the scope of protection. Network perimeters may change as more users migrate off-site. Software firewalls provide better protection for dynamic network environments.

What are the basic advantages of using a firewall?

Before we finish, let's recap some fundamental advantages of installing a firewall. Regardless of what type you choose, firewall benefits include:

  • Virus and malware protection – Firewalls block known viruses and malware agents like trojans. This reduces the risk of a catastrophic shutdown or data loss.
  • Traffic monitoring – Firewalls increase awareness of traffic flows into and out of networks. Firewalls deliver valuable information about user activity and data movements. This information can help refine network security strategies.
  • Protection against hackers – Firewalls prevent unauthorized access and only approve legitimate IP addresses. Unknown addresses are blocked. The firewall will prevent hackers from accessing local resources.
  • Enhanced privacy – Firewalls create a privacy barrier between local networks and the external internet. Outsiders will struggle to identify and exfiltrate network assets. Company activities will remain confidential and well-protected.
  • Compliance – Robust firewalls are a component of data security frameworks associated with regulations like HIPAA or GDPR. Without firewall protection, companies may be liable for huge fines.

Why you should consider installing a firewall

There are many network security benefits of firewall technology. When you combine them they make a compelling business case.

A properly configured firewall allows legitimate traffic on your company's internet connection and prevents unauthorized users. Workers enjoy productivity and a solid user experience. Attackers remain outside, and the risk of malware infections is much lower.

Your network infrastructure is exposed without firewall coverage. Attackers can access applications and databases. IT teams have no knowledge of data flows through the organization and no real access policy. This is a recipe for data loss and massive regulatory fines.

The benefits of firewall coverage are clear. Find a suitable network security solution that matches your network architecture. Avoid outdated firewall types. Protect your network edge with adaptive, cutting-edge security systems.