Skip to content Skip to navigation Skip to footer

What Is Network Edge?

The network edge refers to the area where a device or local network interfaces with the internet. The edge is close to the devices it is communicating with and is the entry point to the network. The network edge is a crucial security boundary that network administrators must provide solutions for. 

Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices and computer infrastructure benefit from being as close to the data source as possible because this enhances throughput, which in turn facilitates more efficient and effective operation. The cybersecurity threat to devices on the boundary of an interconnected network is growing as cyber criminals devise new ways of exploiting vulnerabilities in networks, applications, and emerging, undersecured devices.

What Is the Difference Between Network Edge and Network Core?

The network edge refers to endpoints. It is the first step between endpoints and the core of the network. These include personal computers (PCs), adapters, modems, and the devices that connect to them. The network core refers to the components that provide services to those at the edge. This includes facilities that are often within data centers like servers and those within the data link layer.

IoT Edge Networks

IoT devices enable data to be gathered and processed at the outer edge of a network because they interface with people, the environment, tasks, and other devices that collect and transmit data to the core. An IoT edge infrastructure involves the network transmitting information, such as a 4G or 5G network, the IoT device, and the modems and routers that carry the signal from the device and toward the network’s core. 

Each IoT device comes with the potential for unique security vulnerabilities, so the rise of IoT devices comes with an increased need for tighter edge security measures.

What Is Edge Computing and How Does It Differ from Network Edge?

Edge computing involves processing data in real time near the data’s source. This is different from the network edge in that while it can be a component of the edge, it does not include the other devices used to transmit data from the outer edge toward the core. 

However, with edge computing, you can experience improved response times and cost savings. The edge computing device, because it is closer to the data source, makes faster transmissions possible. It may also reduce expenditures related to setting up and maintaining core devices because much of the computational workload is handled by the edge computing device.

Edge Devices

An edge device is one that serves as an entry point to an organization or service provider’s network core. It includes routers, switches, wide-area networks (WANs), firewalls, and integrated access devices (IADs).


A router transmits packets of data between two different networks. This traffic includes the content of websites as well as communications like video chat, email, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) transmissions. Routers direct traffic on the internet, sending it from one point to another, allowing different edge devices to communicate with each other.


A network switch connects devices within a computer network through packet switching, which receives data then forwards it to the device for which it is intended. A switch allows edge devices to interact and share resources without using devices at the core.

Wide-area Network

A WAN consists of local-area networks (LANs) that connect to each other. In this way, the WAN edge connects the edges of LANs. For example, an organization can connect three offices, each with its own LAN, using a WAN or software-defined WAN (SD-WAN).


A firewall controls the data that is allowed to enter and exit a network infrastructure according to predefined rules. Firewalls inspect data packets, looking for anything that raises suspicion, then discard any packets containing potential threats. Firewalls are a primary line of defense at the network edge, keeping threats from entering or exiting.

Integrated Access Device

An IAD converts different types of data input and renders them into a common format. For example, an IAD is used to convert analog and digital phone signals into one common digital signal. IADs help simplify communications and enable more efficient transmissions at the edge.

How Fortinet Can Help

The Fortinet Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) solution, FortiGate, brings security to every edge by inspecting incoming and outgoing traffic for threats and unauthorized users. As the cloud edge expands, secure access becomes more and more necessary, particularly because more cloud-enabled devices and cloud users considerably expand the attack surface. 

The Fortinet Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) provides multilayer cloud security using cloud-delivered web security, an intrusion prevention system (IPS), a Domain Name System (DNS), NGFW, and sandboxing.