What is a Software Firewall and Hardware Firewall?

A firewall is a program or device that acts as a barrier to keep destructive elements out of a network or specific computer.  Firewalls can be configured in hardware or software with specific criteria to block or prevent unauthorized access to a network.


Software Firewalls

A software firewall is a program, which runs in the background on a computer.  Enterprise edition software firewalls allow IT professionals to manage firewall rules and configurations therefore taking the configuration and management responsibility away from the user.

The software firewall operates by inspecting the network data that is incoming to the computer, as well as outgoing from the computer. If the firewall detects the data has been altered or if appears malicious, the software blocks it, effectively preventing any form of an attack.

Firewalls operate from a set of rules. The administrator can make a specific rule in the firewall to block a specific website or even a specific application.  In some cases when connecting to a printer with advanced features, the IT professional may need to alter the firewall rules to allow certain data through to access features.



Hardware Firewalls

As data comes through the Internet, the firewall scans each transmission, looking for malicious items and to see if the data has been maliciously altered or forged.  The larger the amount of Internet activity to an organization, the harder it is for a firewall to scan through each transmission.

For a larger company with 100 users, a traditional router with a built-in firewall would not be enough and could cause a potential bottleneck.  Enterprise firewalls are customizable and allow your IT support services team to block computers, websites, and specific Internet traffic.

Hardware firewalls also allow VPN connectivity which allow remote users to access work data from a remote location.  VPN’s are very popular amongst remote workers and are sometimes used for security purposes.

There are many firewall manufacturers including Cisco, Juniper, SonicWall, Fortinet, Watchguard and Barracuda.


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