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Different types of firewalls explained

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Jay Lehnert
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We’ve all heard of firewalls and know their purpose – to protect networks from malicious activity and unauthorised access. No business today can operate without a firewall. They are an essential component of any network security. However, choosing what type of firewall service is the most suitable for your organisation is not always an easy task.

Different IT providers offer different types of firewall services with different features and inclusions.To further complicate matters, the terminology is not always used consistently and can be a source of confusion, especially for non-experts or those who are new to the IT profession. Dedicated, hosted, managed, self-managed, shared, cloud-based, all of these terms are used to describe firewall services.
A firewall solution that suits your firm can be determined by factors such as the size of your company and industry you operate in.

In this article, I will shed some light on a few common types of firewalls and explain the advantages of each one.

Unmanaged dedicated firewall

In the case of an unmanaged dedicated firewall service, customers can either purchase a firewall device from a provider or supply their own. The firewall can be located on the customer’s premises or in the provider’s data centre and is a dedicated piece of hardware that is used exclusively by the customer.
This ensures a very high level of security, as the piece of hardware is exclusively dedicated for protecting one network.

As the service is unmanaged, customers enjoy the advantage of retaining full control over their security policies, including the initial firewall setup, configuration and ongoing maintenance and upgrades to the device. If customers choose to host their firewall in a data centre facility, they will be responsible for paying for colocation services, which normally include rack space, power supply, Ethernet ports and installation services.

For example, customers who have a private IP network with GCOMM and require access to the Internet via a single junction point can take advantage of the Centralised Internet Gateway solution and colocate their firewall at one of our data centre facilities across Australia. This enables multiple sites on the customer’s network to be protected with only one firewall, thus making security management less complex and resource demanding.

As expected, unmanaged dedicated firewall service is mostly suitable for large enterprises that have sophisticated IT departments and in-house expertise to manage their own network security.

 Managed dedicated firewall

The main difference between managed and unmanaged dedicated firewall service lies in, as the name implies, which party is responsible for managing the firewall device.

For customers who don’t have the technical capabilities or resources to perform security management or want to save on equipment purchase costs, outsourcing firewall management to a managed services provider (MSP) is an option worth considering. The customer can simply rent a firewall device from a provider and pay a monthly fee for the service, including setup, configuration and ongoing management. The device can be hosted either on-premise or in a data centre.

This service is usually suited for medium to large businesses that either don’t have in-house resources for firewall management or are looking to reduce their IT costs by offloading security management to an MSP.

 Hosted firewall

Another popular type of service is hosted firewall, or “cloud firewall” as it is also referred to. Unlike the other two, this type of firewall is not a physical device, rather it is a virtual instance residing on a shared infrastructure in the provider’s data centre.

With this configuration, there is a possibility to enforce security policies across the entire private IP network via a single firewall, which is an important benefit for many companies that want to streamline their network security management and lower IT costs.

Another significant advantage is that hosted firewall doesn’t require the customer to purchase any equipment and software or pay for colocation services. It also eliminates the need for maintenance contracts, repair expenses and upgrades to technology. It is a solution designed for smaller organisations that don’t have the requirements needed for a dedicated firewall.

These are just a few of the many options for firewall services. Which type of firewall solution will be the most appropriate for your organisation will be determined by a number of factors, including the size of your company, the industry your operate in, how many branch offices you have and the security policies that govern your business.

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About Jay Lehnert

Jay Lehnert
Jay has been working with GCOMM since 2002. He has been responsible for the design and implementation of many new backend systems. With the diverse environment that GCOMM works in, he has developed a broad skill set and accomplished an array of industry recognised certifications with Cisco, Microsoft and VMware. He enjoys camping, hiking and generally anything to do with the outdoors.
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