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What is a Firewall?

written by: Ashwin Satyanarayana•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 7/4/2011

What is a firewall? This part is a continuation of the first one and has even more specific functions. By the end of this series, you would know precisely for what purposes a firewall can be really used for. Read more about it:

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    The firewall, in the context of enterprise security, is more like a door guard than anything. The term ‘Firewall” itself is a misnomer. There is really no fire or any physical wall as such. But since it sounds good and is easy to use, it is in use. Most people have varied definitions and a mind-boggling number of ways to explain firewalls to you. However, below you'll find some broken down explanations that answers the question: what is a firewall?

    • Information in packets? Check that: As mentioned before, the firewall follows explicit rules as to which packets of information will be allowed and which packet of information won’t be. The best thing about the firewall is that it can be really ruthless in following rules. You set the rules and the firewall just makes the decisions depending on what packet of information it is handling at that moment.
    • Hey! Who's that? You are not welcome: Intrusion detection is perhaps one of the most critical functions of a Firewall. It does this by keeping a close vigil for certain types of network traffic which might indicate an attempt in breaking into or intruding into the network. The firewall won’t just block the Intrusion attempt but perhaps take pro-active steps to ensure that maximum protection -- like camouflaging the Internal IP addresses or by alerting the administrators.
    • Firewalls can balance loads: If all the information exchange for a business happens just through one point in the network, it might just be great from the security stand-point, but might not really be pragmatic. In the sense that if everything were to depend on one point, that point could also be a point of failure. To avoid this, firewalls can do load-balancing -- being able to oversee and operate on two or more points of data exchange.
    • Keeping an eye-- monitoring and logging: Within a business establishment, it is impossible for the business to function properly if someone doesn’t keep an eye on what’s happening within. Each information exchange has to be monitored and care must be taken as to what’s happening within the system. A well - designed firewall provides you with tons of information on all activities within the network and it can dole out reports whenever you need to review.

Understanding Firewalls for Small Businesses

This series has everything to do with Firewalls -- the basics, the concepts, the types and the reviews on various firewalls for small businesses
  1. Firewall Definition: Does your Business Have a Firewall?
  2. Importance of a Reliable Firewall
  3. Small Business Security Basics: Functions of a Firewall
  4. What Kind of Firewall Do You Really Need?
  5. What Does a Firewall Do?
  6. What is a Firewall?
  7. Some Common Firewall Myths Exposed