How to Choose the Right Firewall for a Business Network

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How to Choose the Right Firewall for a Business Network

Regardless of the size of a business, firewalls are a necessity for guarding against those that wish to penetrate a company's system in order to steal information. There are several different types of firewalls and different manufacturers that produce them. Being empowered with the knowledge of how to choose the correct firewall for a business network is crucial. This guide will cover what a firewall is, how to choose one for a business, and the different types of firewalls one can choose. Utilizing the information provided here will help save time and money.


A Brief History of Firewalls

"Firewall" was a term originally used to refer to a wall meant to contain a fire within a building to keep it from spreading and to protect important areas of the building. This term is also used to refer to other structures, such as metal sheeting that separates an engine compartment of a vehicle or aircraft from a passenger compartment.

The current computer firewall technology came about in the late 1980s when the Internet was just getting its start and growing in popularity in terms of the global use and connectivity. The original firewalls used for network security were routers used in the late 1980s. Just like historical firewalls, today's business network firewalls are designed to keep the network safe from those who would harm it.


About Business Network Firewalls

The job of a firewall is to keep a network secure. The main work of a firewall is the control of incoming and outgoing traffic on the network. This is done based on a set of rules for how data packets are handled by the network and whether they will be allowed through. A firewall is either software-based or hardware-based. It acts as a bridge between the business' internal network and an outside network such as the Internet, which is usually not as secure. In a business network situation, the security of the network as it interacts with the Internet and outside users is of paramount importance. Although many operating systems come with some kind of software-based firewall installed, it's necessary to consider greater protection for most business networks. This is accomplished through several types of firewalls.


Types of Firewalls

There are six basic types of firewalls which can be used in a business network setting to secure the information and access of users both inside and outside of the network which are listed here along with a brief description of each:

Types of Firewall

Description

Embedded Firewall

 

This type firewall is embedded into either a router or a switch. Embedded firewalls are also referred to as choke-point firewalls.

Enterprise Software-Based Firewall

If a business does not wish to include extra hardware, they can opt for a software-based approach. Simple installation and can be removed easily. This type is best suited for needs requiring larger amounts of memory.

SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) Software-Based Firewall

If a business does not wish to include extra hardware, they can opt for a software-based approach. Simple installation and can be removed easily. This type is best suited for needs requiring limited amounts of memory.

Enterprise Hardware-Based Firewall

Sometimes it is best to go the route of installing extra hardware as it is harder to compromise than a simple software install. This type is best suited for needs requiring larger amounts of memory.

SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) Hardware-Based Firewall

Sometimes it is best to go the route of installing extra hardware as it is harder to compromise than a simple software install. This type is best suited for needs requiring limited amounts of memory.

Specialty Firewalls

 

Specialty firewalls are firewalls that focus on certain applications. Most widely used for security technology purposes, this type of firewall is not necessary unless an above normal amount of security is required to protect certain information.

Always keeping in mind that numbers of users are the key to choosing the right firewall, this list should help simplify the process.


How to Choose the Right Firewall

There are many things that a buyer should think about when considering which firewall solution to use to protect a business network. It is important that the buyer look at each one before choosing.

Select the Firewall Based on Number of Users

There are two main types of firewalls available. The first is called SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) and the second, and more expensive, is called an enterprise class firewall. In order to determine which type works best for the business, a buyer needs to assess how many users will be using the network. The more users, the higher class of firewall needed. Of course, even with only one user, a business could still utilize an enterprise class firewall; however, it could be more costly and include features that aren't needed.

A SOHO firewall can usually accommodate up to fifty users without too much trouble. If it's anticipated that there will be more than that, buyers may want to move up to the enterprise class firewall to keep from overloading the network and creating holes through which individuals can penetrate the business.

When taking into account the number of users to be accessing the network, a business needs to understand that the number of users also affects how much RAM and processing power is needed in the firewall to be used.

Choose a Firewall with Accurate Random Access Memory

RAM, or random-access memory, is the most common type of memory found in a firewall or computer. Choosing the correct type of RAM is extremely important as this will directly affect how compatible a firewall is with the computer system. The following two types of RAM hold the most importance when choosing a compatible firewall:

DRAM: Dynamic Random-Access Memory

This refers to the main type of memory used in a computer. DRAM needs to be refreshed every so often as it has a limited amount of storage capability.

SRAM: Static Random-Access Memory

This refers to a secondary (yet still common) type of memory used in a computer. SRAM differs from DRAM in that it does not need to be refreshed, and cycles through memory a lot faster.

Most firewalls will be compatible with DRAM or SRAM depending on the memory needed. A small number of users on a network can function with a lower amount of RAM such as DRAM. However, should a business have an extensive number of users, it is important to look into investing in memory with a higher capacity like the SRAM. Choosing the correct one can increase a business' productivity while enabling the firewall to work efficiently.

Network Address Translation Choices

Most all widely used firewalls come packaged with network address translation, or NAT. NAT affords a business the capability to translate illegal or private IP addresses into legal public addresses and in turn, it helps to protect the internal anatomy of the network from prying eyes.

There are four different types of NAT configurations that a company should be mindful of when choosing a firewall. They are listed below:

Types of NAT

Description

One-To-One Addressing

 

This is the most basic of all four NAT configurations. This configuration maps an internal IP address to a different external public IP address. This is best for SOHO firewall systems.

One-To-Many Addressing

 

This is used when a business wants to take one IP address and split it into two. If a business has a complex carrier-class network they might want to consider this more advanced option. If not, keeping to something simpler would suffice.

Many-To-One Addressing

This term is used when multiple internal IP addresses can be mapped to one external IP address.

Many-To-Many Addressing

 

This is for mapping groups of internal or external IP addresses with different groups of IP addresses on other networks.

Making sure to choose the right NAT will stave off unnecessary issues regarding addressing.

Virtual Private Networking Requirements

A VPN allows users to access site-to-site encryption. Firewalls are often used as VPN endpoints, but only some firewalls come with VPN capabilities. A firewall blocks traffic and only allows certain things in or out. However, once the information is on the Internet, it is pretty much accessible to the world. In order to ensure the business' privacy and retain the data's integrity it is helpful to utilize a VPN. Should a buyer decide that a VPN is the best route, they should keep in mind that a VPN requires two endpoints. If there are not two endpoints in use, a VPN is rendered useless.

How to Choose the Right Firewall at a Glance

Below is a table which depicts the amount of RAM suitable for the number of users along with other variables including the number of offices, and packet filtering requirements. This should help in sizing the firewall for the business.

Number of Users

Number of Offices

RAM Needed by Firewall

Processing Power

Packet Filter

Under 50 (SOHO)

1

Less than 10 mb

66 Mhz

Less than 10 Mbps

51-1000

2-299

65 mb

200 Mhz

Less than 100 Mbps

1001-5000

300

128 mb

500 Mhz

Less than 200 Mbps

Over 5000

Over 300

256 mb

500 Mhz plus

Over 200 Mbps

By using the above table, buyers can make an informed choice about the right firewall for their particular business network needs.


Some Popular Firewall Options

There are, of course, a large variety of firewall manufacturers; however, to narrow it down and give buyers an idea of some of the more noteworthy producers of business firewalls, here is a list of the top four manufacturers:

This list should help in having a better understanding of how to apply the knowledge provided here in the actual buying process.

How to Purchase a Firewall

Once you've decided which firewall will work best for your business, it's time to begin the search for that specific product. eBay is an excellent source in which to find vendors for your firewall and you can use the following information to help in the purchase of your new software or hardware:

Using eBay for Your Purchase

You can begin your search using the search bar on the home page. Another option is to use the Advanced Search also available from the home page. If you would prefer to browse through different categories, you can follow these simple steps:

Begin by choosing Electronics from the home page selection. Next, you will want to navigate to Computers, Tablets and Networking, then to All Categories. This will pop up another screen enabling you to choose from a larger variety of subjects. Here, you will want to click on Enterprise Networking, Servers and finally on Firewall and VPN Devices. At this point, you can choose from a few options if you wish to narrow down the type of firewall you are looking for, otherwise you can browse through the selection available.


Conclusion

To conclude this guide, let's take a look back at the basics of how to choose the right firewall for a business network. Taking into account the number of users is the most important factor, as this affects all other decisions made regarding the product. Next would be to decide whether you need a SOHO or enterprise-class firewall, and from there it's a simple fact of cost versus need.

eBay has been around long enough to establish a diverse group of vendors as well as buyers. They provide all the basics needed to not only purchase whatever item you may be in the market for, but also help to give you the tools in order to make an educated decision regarding what it is you will be purchasing. Utilizing all the tools provided for you in this guide will make choosing the right firewall for your business network easier.

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