Firewall is a protective system that lies, in essence, between your computer network and the Internet. A firewall may be a standalone system, a software application or a hardware device that blocks/permits traffic, prevents unauthorized users or malicious traffic from accessing a network or a system. It acts as a barrier or a membrane between two or more networks. The job of a firewall is to carefully analyze data entering and exiting the network based on your configuration. It ignores information that comes from unsecured, unknown or suspicious locations. A firewall plays an important role on any network as it provides a protective barrier against most forms of attack coming from the outside world.
Firewalls can be either hardware or software. The ideal firewall configuration will consist of both. In addition to limiting access to you computer and network, a firewall is also useful for allowing remote access to a private network through secure authentication certificates and logins. A hardware firewall is a small metal box filled with plug openings, or ports. You hook your computer network into the box then set it up on your computer, just as you would a new printer or other peripheral. Because it's not physically on your machine, a hardware firewall is less vulnerable than a software firewall.
Software firewalls give you the level of protection you need to keep safe from hackers and other unwanted intrusions because software is far easier for computer novices to customize. The features are suited to smaller home networks. Where as hardware firewalls are used in conjunction with software firewalls thus hardware firewall filters out the traffic and the software firewall inspects the network traffic thus you get pure traffic and unwanted traffic can be blocked easily.
Hardware firewalls can be purchased as a stand-alone product but more recently hardware firewalls are typically found in broadband routers, and should be considered an important part of your system and network set-up, especially for anyone on a broadband connection. Hardware firewalls can be effective with little or no configuration, and they can protect every machine on a local network. Most hardware firewalls will have a minimum of four network ports to connect other computers, but for larger networks, business networking firewall solutions are available.
A hardware firewall uses packet filtering to examine the header of a packet to determine its source and destination. This information is compared to a set of predefined or user-created rules that determine whether the packet is to be forwarded or dropped.
A computer user with general computer knowledge can plug in a firewall, adjust a few settings and have it work. To ensure that your firewall is configured for optimal security and protect however, consumers will no doubt need to learn the specific features of their hardware firewall, how to enable them, and how to test the firewall to ensure its doing a good job of protecting your network.
To test your hardware firewall security, you can purchase third-party test software or search the Internet for a free online-based firewall testing service. Firewall testing is an important part of maintenance to ensure your system is always configured for optimal protection.