Business Class Firewall Overview

What your business needs to know

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: May 27, 2011

A business class firewall is an important part of any office network. This is a virtual barrier that protects your computers from outside attack and prevents unauthorized people from gaining access to your information. It also prevents malware from phoning home and contacting unknown users.

There are two main types of business firewalls available:

Network Layer Firewall 

This is a firewall that prevents data packets from passing into the network unless they follow a specific set of rules. These rules can be defined by an administrator and are typically based on whether the data matches a particular IP address, port, or protocol. You can also use a default set of rules which will protect a computer system from most forms of attack.

Application Layer Firewall 

This is a firewall that works on the application level of the network stack (more specifically, the browser, telnet, and ftp traffic). The firewall directly controls the access of applications or services and can prevent unwanted traffic from connecting to the network. It can also analyze the data packets passing through and detect computer worms and viruses.

You can obtain these firewalls from many different sources. There are vendors that offer a yearly subscription to gain access to a secure firewall and software that you can purchase off the shelf at a computer store. You can also find free versions on assorted websites, but they don’t tend to be business class level and may not be sufficient for your security needs.

Many firewalls have special features that are useful for small businesses. The most common of these is anti-virus software that can prevent a computer from downloading malicious files. If an employee accidentally clicks on a dangerous link, the software will immediately stop the data transfer. This can be vital for keeping an office network in proper running condition.

Other firewalls offer spam filtering so your inbox won’t get constantly clogged up by unwanted emails. The software automatically scans all incoming messages and routes the suspicious ones to a junk folder (the parameters for this can be set to different security levels). An administrator can then check this folder on a periodic basis to make sure that regular emails haven’t been filtered.

Firewalls also occasionally have a file and folder lock option. This allows you to password protect the important data on your network so only the administrator or selected users will be able to access it. You can also use this to hide files so they are undetectable to employees without the proper clearance.

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