As much of the business world continues to go digital, it is imperative that forward-thinking companies focus on securing their systems from external threats. One of the ways this has been accomplished since the early 1980s is by employing firewalls.
However, as times change, so should the methods with which we protect our businesses. Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) are the latest in digital protection, helping to merge the best parts of traditional technology with the new technologies of today to deliver optimal digital protection.
Top 5 Firewall Benefits
Understanding the benefits of firewall security is the first step in helping your business grow safely in the ever-changing digital age. Even if your business only relies on technology and networks for a small piece of your operations, it is still equally important that you take proactive steps to keep things protected. Firewalls serve as a first line of defense to external threats, malware, and hackers trying to gain access to your data and systems.
1. Monitors Network Traffic
All of the benefits of firewall security start with the ability to monitor network traffic. Data coming in and out of your systems creates opportunities for threats to compromise your operations. By monitoring and analyzing network traffic, firewalls leverage preestablished rules and filters to keep your systems protected. With a well-trained IT team, you can manage your levels of protection based on what you see coming in and out through your firewall.
2. Stops Virus Attacks
Nothing can shut your digital operations down faster and harder than a virus attack. With hundreds of thousands of new threats developed every single day, it is vital that you put the defenses in place to keep your systems healthy. One of the most visible benefits of firewalls is the ability to control your system's entry points and stop virus attacks. The cost of damage from a virus attack on your systems could be immeasurably high, depending on the type of virus.
3. Prevents Hacking
Unfortunately, the trend of businesses moving more toward digital operations invites thieves and bad actors to do the same. With the rise of data theft and criminals holding systems hostage, firewalls have become even more important, as they prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access to your data, emails, systems, and more. A firewall can stop a hacker completely or deter them to choose an easier target.
4. Stops Spyware
In a data-driven world, a much-needed benefit is stopping spyware from gaining access and getting into your systems. As systems become more complex and robust, the entry points criminals can use to gain access to your systems also increase. One of the most common ways unwanted people gain access is by employing spyware and malware—programs designed to infiltrate your systems, control your computers, and steal your data. Firewalls serve as an important blockade against these malicious programs.
5. Promotes Privacy
An overarching benefit is the promotion of privacy. By proactively working to keep your data and your customers' data safe, you build an environment of privacy that your clients can trust. No one likes their data stolen, especially when it is clear that steps could have been taken to prevent the intrusion.
Additionally, upgraded data-protection systems can be a competitive advantage and a selling point to customers and clients. The benefit increases the more sensitive the data your company deals with.
The Disadvantages of Traditional Firewalls
Unfortunately, traditional solutions come with limitations and drawbacks. Not only can these drawbacks compromise your security but they can also put an undue strain on your resources. While a traditional firewall is better than nothing in most cases, the strain on your IT team, network speed, and digital security budget is something that needs to be weighed.
1. Application Awareness Limitations
Traditional firewalls lack the ability to go as deep as NGFWs, especially when it comes to applications. NGFWs allow the user to see which applications are being used across the network and enable the ability to control specific usage within those applications. With a traditional firewall, the flexibility to control access this deep is not available.
2. Issues with Network Speed
Speed is an issue. Many traditional firewalls create a bottleneck at the data inspection points, which can slow down your operation and cost you money. For operations expecting to scale, add more rules, policies, and security protocols, this is not ideal.
3. Logistical Drawbacks
Many traditional firewalls are not capable of adapting to the changing aspect of company systems and operations. They can be clunky, require extensive management and maintenance, and struggle to adapt to cloud-based environments.
Additionally, managing policy rules across a major network can be tedious and put an undue and expensive strain on IT departments. Not only can this create holes for intrusion but it can also create operational bottlenecks. A lack of control on security rules can keep out information and users that you want to have access.
4. Lack of Evolution Capabilities
The security threat landscape is ever-changing with new threats emerging every day. It is nearly impossible to stay up with the changes and provide effective support and protection without severely limiting the capabilities of your team or your business. Reinstalling new solutions on every system is expensive, time-consuming, and creates opportunities for vulnerabilities with outdated protection.
The Advantages of Network Firewalls
Thankfully, where traditional firewalls fall off, network firewalls pick up. The advantages to NGFWs are countless and start with delivering the best in network and data security. Firewalls have been around for over 40 years. It is unrealistic to expect the same safety protocols that worked decades ago to continue working now without upgrades, like the ones you see with NGFWs.
The ability to consistently upgrade and adapt your network security in real time provides a lot of flexibility and versatility to your IT team. While there may be a hardware component to your NGFW, much of the changes and upgrades can be deployed from one machine. This enables you to be more up to date with the changing threat landscape. Additionally, you can more easily control the flow of data and users if your business changes the way it operates.
2. Intelligence Port Control
Network firewalls go above and beyond the classic single-layer port approach of traditional solutions. Instead, NGFWs offer multi-layered protection by looking at traffic all across the different levels of the network.
Additionally, NGFWs add application-level security to the equation, allowing for more control, better transparency, and the ability to better control the data and information that comes in and out of your network. The smarter your security system, the more effective you can count on it to operate.
3. Simple Infrastructure
One of the top advantages of NGFWs is the simplicity of the infrastructure. By streamlining network security, your IT team can deploy new policies much easier across the entire network from one device. Additionally, the transparency gives your team more flexibility in controlling what gets in and what gets out, which is the primary goal.
4. Updated Threat Protection
Historically, businesses needed independent firewalls, antivirus, ransomware protection, and intrusion detection systems. A great advantage to NGFWs is these security measures are integrated into one seamless product. Not only is this easier on your IT department but it also increases the level of protection across the board through component cooperation.
NGFWs also go much deeper with deep packet inspection (DPI), which looks at more elements of the data coming into your systems. The result is a more informed and more effective decision-making process for what to allow through and what to block. Again, this adds to the primary goal of firewalls.
5. Consistent Network Speed
As mentioned, traditional firewalls can bog down your systems more and more as you increase the breadth of your protections. A much-appreciated benefit is you can continue to improve and expand the deployment of your protection without compromising the speed of your network.
The very nature of the network design promotes the highest potential throughput without compromising security. In simpler terms, your systems stay protected, and the speed of your operations remain fast.
How Fortinet Can Help
Proactively addressing the security concerns of your business and your network now can pay dividends of time, savings, safety, and privacy in the future. Not only do NGFWs deliver security but they also can give you a marketable competitive advantage over your competitors that are behind the security curve.
Fortinet’s FortiGate NGFWs exceed the industry standard in providing superior protection, as recognized for the 12th time in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Network Firewalls. FortiGate solutions combine all of the various firewall permutations into a single, integrated platform, including new SD-WAN functionality. Its single-pane-of-glass management offers a simplified experience for a broad array of use cases, as well as flexible deployment across all network edges. Fortinet’s security-driven approach to networking enables security to be built into every aspect of the network, from the ground level up.