A firewall is like a moat surrounding your computer network and protecting it from enemy attacks. Picture a sentry standing on the draw bridge inspecting everything that tries to pass through to determine if it is safe. Friendly visitors are allowed to pass. Unfriendly visitors are thrown to the alligators.
You can decide who or what gets past and what doesn’t through a process called filtering. That allows you to control what websites your employees can access outside of your network,. That alone can save you thousands of dollars a year in lost productivity from employees surfing the Internet instead of working. It also protects your system from risks associated with accessing infected websites.
Firewalls come in two basic types: hardware and software.
Hardware firewalls are designed to protect all the computers within your network. They block all traffic between the Internet and your network except for the specific types of emails or web traffic that you decide to allow through.
Another advantage to hardware firewalls is that they can hide the addresses of the computers in your network so they are invisible to anyone outside the firewall. Contact your Internet Service Provider and ask about having a firewall installed on your router or DSL/cable modem.
Software firewalls are designed to protect only individual computers, but they are a good backup to your network’s hardware firewall. Software firewalls are built into specific operating systems such as the Windows Firewall in Windows XP Professional.