Years ago, firewalls were only needed by large companies that might be targeted by hackers. Over recent years, however, things have changed. The internet has become a much more dangerous venue. Hackers are no longer just selectively targeting big companies. Through malicious software (malware) and hacked websites they’re now targeting everyone. That includes big businesses, small businesses, even the casual home user. Opening an email attachment or going to a hacked website makes you vulnerable to the spying eyes of hackers. Antivirus and anti-malware software can protect you from some threats, but not all. The extra layer of protection that a firewall provides is strongly advised.
A firewall is a device that sits between your computer(s) and the internet. It does some of the same things antivirus and anti-malware software do, plus more. It can warn you if you attempt to visit a website that was recently hacked. It can prevent malware from opening a “back door” into your network. It can filter spam and malware attachments from email. It can prevent your employees from visiting disreputable or otherwise unwanted websites (for example, if you have a problem keeping employees off Facebook or Netflix during working hours). It can provide reports of who in your organization is visiting these websites and who the “malware magnets” are. Implemented and managed correctly, a firewall can do a lot to increase network security and employee efficiency.
You may be thinking, “I have antivirus software that includes a software firewall. Isn’t that just as good?” It’s not. It may provide a lot of the same functions, but it’s not as secure as a separate firewall device. Remember, a software firewall is simply software running on your computer—the same computer that may have been compromised by malware. That malware could have disabled your firewall software. Having a separate device that is not subject to the same vulnerabilities as your computer makes it more secure. And since the firewall manufacturer provides their own built-in antivirus software, you get the benefit of two separate and different virus scans, increasing the odds of blocking malware.
Like most automation tools, a firewall can stop working. If your support or software subscription expires it will stop blocking threats without warning. A hardware malfunction can also cause it to allow undesirable activity. It’s important to check your firewall regularly to ensure it is working as expected.
That’s the job of your IT Managed Service Provider (MSP). If your MSP provides a Managed Firewall service, this not only eliminates the high up-front cost, but also gives you peace of mind knowing your network’s security is being monitored. Rather than the cost of purchasing a firewall along with the software subscription (usually one, two or three years in advance), your IT managed service provider provides the hardware and software, along with continuous monitoring as part of their IT Managed Services at a low monthly rate. These services usually start under $100 per month depending on the size of your network. That’s a small price to pay for the security that the firewall and your MSP are providing.
If you’re interested in learning more about our Managed Firewall service, call or write us and we’ll be happy to discuss it.