Do You Really Need a Firewall?

Do You Really Need a Firewall?

Do You Really Need a Firewall?

Historically, a firewall referred to the fire-retardant material placed within the walls of adjacent row houses or the metal sheet between your feet and your automobile engine.  Today, a firewall is most known as a crucial part of an IT network that is integrated into the security protocols.

What is a Firewall?

A firewall protects one side of a computer network from another.  As a security tool, a firewall may be comprised of a software solution or a combination of hardware and software.  Most businesses employ hardware-based designs that combine a network router with rules to determine what traffic is blocked or allowed to pass the device.  The advantage of a hardware-based firewall is that it is designed for a single purpose: to protect one side of the network.  A software-only design may have similar features but may perform other duties which can detract from the protection effort.

How Does a Firewall Work?

Let’s focus on hardware-based firewall configurations. A firewall sits directly between the Internet connection and the internal network.  The device inspects the incoming and outgoing network traffic, consults a list of rules, and determines what, if any, traffic may pass.  The network traffic in a normal network is comprised of web, file transfer, and email.  Traffic may also include social media, video, audio, and applications.  When you open your favorite YouTube site to catch the latest silly cat video, your firewall will ultimately determine whether you have the right to view the traffic.

The newest generation of firewall examines the origin and destination of the passing traffic and deciphers it to identify malicious data.  This is known as deep-packet inspection (DPI). With DPI, the firewall can filter out suspicious traffic based on the source and destination, while making knowledgeable decisions about the actual data payload.  Returning to the silly cat video example, with DPI, the firewall is looking into the video data itself to determine if it contains malicious code.  If it finds any, the firewall can be instructed to prevent receipt.

Do I Really Need A Firewall?

A frequent question is whether your network needs a firewall after data is moved to the cloud.  Our answer usually surprises them.  Yes, they do need a firewall.  In fact, a firewall is imperative.  Without a firewall on the network your workstation is on the Internet just waiting for an attack.  Once your workstation is compromised, so is your cloud-based data.  In short, no firewall means compromised data.

A firewall is just one part of a truly effective network security stack. A security stack is comprised of many over-lapping layers of protection.  The firewall is only one of those layers.  Comprehensive network security should include regular security maintenance and hardware patching, antivirus and anti-malware systems, spam and phishing filters, internal network monitoring solutions and 7/24/365 intrusion detection and prevention systems. Without a firewall and a defined security stack, your workstation is effectively loose on the Internet just waiting for an attack. Security-conscious IT consultants and managed service firms can help build a more complete security stack.

To learn more about firewalls and their importance to your network, please call our team or reach out through our website at

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