What is a network gateway?
Connecting two networks remotely takes a lot more than it seems at first glance. For that, gateways exist — they're portals facilitating communication between two networks. Network gateways translate traffic between two protocols and permit data sharing among different computers.
It's an important piece of technology enabling corporate local area connections to the public internet and vice versa. Internally, organizations may use different protocols from the ones used publicly for security, so they can't connect directly as they need a translator. Therefore, a deployed gateway reorganizes the traffic to be understandable for the receiver and makes online communication possible.
How does a network gateway work?
The network gateway is an intermediary between different networks to allow data exchange. As a network entry and exit point, it sets the data through correct routing paths, much like a router.
Each network gateway joins two networks allowing data exchange between them by translating the protocols between different networks. In the internal network, a router, a node, or a server could act as a gateway. It can be implemented as hardware or software but is always at the network's edge. For larger organizations, servers are one of the most frequently used gateway types, as they can simultaneously handle huge amounts of incoming connections.
Gateways are a popular way to secure entrance into an organization's network. For this reason, they are often combined with additional security tools like firewalls. Most routers are gateways with built-in firewalls and other security features to control open systems interconnection.
Network gateway features and capabilities
Although the technology isn't that novel, it's still widely used to make connectivity possible. Its application includes everything from cloud storage gateway security to proxy server management. Here are the most important features and capabilities of network gateways.
Being the main portal for entering an enterprise's network, gateways function as the first frontier of security. It will be a go-to location to deploy various cybersecurity technologies like firewalls. Even their cloud counterparts — secure internet gateways, retain the same core functionality, ensuring a level of security when converting network protocols.
Most gateways are fluent in a variety of network protocols. Therefore, they can effortlessly communicate with various devices and systems. Due to this capability, the gateways are flexible enough to provide good interconnectivity while at the same time retaining the needed high-security standard — whether via a wireless gateway or over the WAN.
As the main entry into the network, the gateway is also useful for monitoring. Every connected device can be tracked. This can be very helpful for network administrators overseeing large networks with many unmanaged devices. Network gateway helps to bring more order into the network and protect it from cyber threats.
As a side effect, every device connecting in and out leaves a lot of data and logs behind. This can be applied to study various patterns of how the users act on the network. For cybersecurity teams, this data is invaluable as this can help to build a predictive model and track when there are deviations. This is usually the time when the network is breached. So, harnessing network gateway analytics is one of the key things to benefit from.
Network gateways use cases
The primary function of a network gateway is enabling cross-network connectivity. Usually, it's its sole function. However, due to its role as the gatekeeper, a network gateway is frequently combined with various additional features, however, you shouldn't expect all of them to be included by default.
Laptops and other portable devices use network interface cards that interact with various gateways they encounter. It's one of the founding technologies that allows internet service and seamless data sharing.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT devices rely on a great variety of various protocols for communication. As they vary greatly regarding used protocols and processing capabilities, the network gateway enables it to function on the same network layer. This allows connecting IoT devices with cloud networks and user applications.
You may not realize this, but storing files in the cloud isn't possible without a secure web gateway. Storage service API must be converted into block-based storage protocols or file storage interfaces that multi-cloud applications need. All of these conversions will happen through a secure web gateway.
Some applications may need specialized pathways to ensure seamless connectivity. A secure web gateway must ensure that other business digital assets function as intended. Whether you're accessing a local network or a cloud network, in both examples, the network gateway is the component that makes it work.
Network gateway vs. router
While routers and gateways carry traffic between networks, their functions differ. Routers can indeed perform some of the functions of gateways, but in the end, the use cases will be very different.
A router only focuses on directing packages to the correct pact. Meanwhile, the network gateway converts protocols into others at the edge of the network perimeter. A network boundary splits the protocol into its version that would be understandable within the internal network.
Network gateway vs. firewall
While they're frequently combined, network gateways and firewalls have nothing else in common. While network gateways transit traffic between the networks, firewalls are network filters with rulesets to allow or deny specific connections.
Therefore, it's one of the reasons why it's so frequently bundled into one unit. All connections must go through the web gateway, so it only makes sense to set up a traffic filter on the destination all the connections will be going through.
Network gateway vs. switch
Although they may sound like they perform very similar functions, both network gateway and switch do entirely different things. While the network gateway connects multiple networks, a switch allows networked devices to talk to each other. Therefore, the gateway is a checkpoint where connections end up before being routed. Meanwhile, the switch receives information from a source and routes the connection to its intended destination with MAC addresses.
Network gateway vs. bridge
Network gateways and bridges are alike because they are designed to connect two different networks. However, the difference is that while network gateways can translate protocols into one that would be understandable on the network, bridges only connect identical protocols. They could link up two LAN networks, assuming they use the same protocols.
Network gateways are incredibly useful when joining two networks together. They facilitate the exchange process, making it unnoticeable to a casual user. They also have additional uses for increasing network security, visibility, and analytics. However, it's important to emphasize that these additions may not always come with your network gateway setup by default.
As the central portal of entry into the organization's network gateway can also be supplemented with additional tools and software to make your entry better prepared against various online threats.