Should I purchase a Hardware or Software Firewall?
A hardware firewall is a piece of hardware which connects to your internet and also connects to all computers. It sits between the internet and your computers and so when you are accessing the internet you have to go through the firewall. The firewall is a dedicated hardware appliance protecting all your computers, also reffered to as a network \ gateway firewall.
A firewall installed on a computer itself is a software firewall, also known as a personal firewall. This comes as a software package you would install on your computer. The differences are explained below and in which circumstances you would use each one.
Hardware or Software Firewall?
A hardware firewall is more secure, can protect more computers and runs on its own processing power and so does not affect a computer's performance.
Other than the price, a software firewall does not really have many advantages over a hardware firewall. However it does provide a few benefits over hardware firewalls. The first advantage is if a hacker was on the inside of your hardware firewall, bypassing it. This would of course mean they would not need to challenge the hardware firewall, and this is where a software firewall directly installed on the computer/server itself will prevail. Another advantage to a software firewall is if your server or computer has malware that is trying to phone home, your software firewall will alert you on what is trying to send information out from your server or computer and block the attempt. A real dedicated hardware firewall will have this capability as well, but certainly not home routers with built in firewall features. The last advantage is the price, software firewalls are cheaper.
However all that said in some ways it's irrelevant because you should have both anyway. Many users have both, especially business users. This offers an extra layer of security, which is standard practice today. End users tend to purchase routers with some built in firewall capabilities, and have a dedicated software firewall as well. The use of both hardware firewall and software firewall should be the procedure for everyone, its layers of security we need to address.
This is certainly the case in networks, such as businesses and organisations. The practice here is to have a firewall on the pc's and laptops themselves as well as a network firewall protecting the network from threats coming from outside the network.
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