Hardware vs Software firewall: A brief comparison

Hardware vs Software firewall: A brief comparison

“Google has listed your server as a malware source! Its been hacked into, and is being used to spread malware!”

I’m sure this is a message that you never hope to get in your mailbox. But, how confident are you about your server security?

One of the most important mitigation steps against hacking attempts and malware attacks as proposed by Gartner technology research group is the use of firewalls.

The report shows the necessity to employ firewall as a security layer for our servers. Firewalls come in two broad categories: Hardware and Software. Making this choice is primarily a factor of what your requirements are and what your budget is.

Here I am presenting a quick overview on these two kinds of firewalls so that you can make an informed choice.

Hardware or Software firewalls – Which one to choose?

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Hardware firewalls

Hardware firewalls are integrated into the router that sits between a computer and the Internet. They typically use packet filtering, which means they scan packet headers to determine their source, origin, destination addresses and check with the existing user defined rules to make an allow/deny decision.

Key advantages of hardware firewall.

  1. Speed: Hardware firewalls are tailored for faster response times, so it can handle more traffic loads.
  2. Security: A firewall with its own operating system is less prone for attacks. This in turn reduces the security risk and in addition, hardware firewalls have enhanced security controls.
  3. No Interference: Since the hardware firewall is an isolated network component, it can be managed better, and does not load or slowdown other applications. The firewall can be moved, shutdown, or reconfigured with minimal interference to the network.

If you are using multiple servers for the hosting purpose, hardware firewall might be a better option, since it’s able to handle the traffic for multiple servers and can differentiate between which traffic is allowed to one server but not to another.

Some of the key features of a hardware firewall are:

  1. Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) – The IPS monitors network activities for malicious or unwanted behavior and can react, in real-time, to block or prevent those activities.
  2. AntiVirus/AntiSpyware/AntiMalware – The advanced Antivirus technology ensures real-time protection against a multitude of attacks at the network gateway.
  3. Supports two types VPN (SSL, Ipsec or Site-to-site) with bi-directional content filtering.
  4. Inspects all major protocols like SMTP, POP3, IMAP, FTP, HTTP.

Many of the firewall appliances, including Fortiner, Cisco ASA series and Juniper SSG series, provides advanced features and allows for further functionality like VPN access point.

In turn, it can provide access to an end-users internal network in a secure and reliable fashion, again taking more load off of the servers.

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