Firewalls have served as the first line of defense for computer systems for decades and are an essential component of virtually all digital security strategies. In fact, firewalls have advanced significantly over the years, and they can now offer security beyond just protecting the network’s edge.
With today’s advanced firewalls having so many options available, most manufacturers offer various features that customers can choose from. By purchasing the proper licenses, a firewall appliance can have multiple features enabled and disabled to get the services needed. In addition, with fit firewalls, each device can communicate to the network to update the required functionalities.
Understanding what types of options you have and what they do can help you choose the correct licenses based on your specific business needs.
Standard Firewall Functionality
There are some standard things that virtually all firewalls will do. These functionalities will be the base level of performance and will typically not need any extended license beyond simply purchasing the hardware. Some examples of standard firewall functions include the following:
- Content Filtering – You can set up most firewalls to block traffic from specific websites, IP addresses, and other sources. This can be done on a case-by-case basis, or you can use an allowlist to only allow traffic from certain places.
- Gateway Anti-Virus – Using your firewall as the first line of defense against viruses and malware is a great way to minimize this common threat.
- Spam Filtering – Using your firewall, you can filter out spam traffic, including emails and even certain ads.
- DNS Security – Almost all firewalls will have at least a basic DNS security level. Enabling this type of protection can help reduce the risk of many cyberattacks.
- Application Control Services – Scan and filter traffic based on the application using or creating it to help restrict access to various parts of your network.
Advanced Firewall Functionality
In addition to the standard firewall functions, you can often purchase licenses for additional options. These are usually more advanced and provide additional layers of security to minimize threats against your network further. While these features are not necessary for every environment, they should be considered on a case-by-case basis to see if they are needed for your business:
- SD-WAN Configuration – You can add additional security to your SD-WAN network using a firewall setting specifically for this technology.
- Cloud Management – Setting up your firewall to allow the use of cloud infrastructure while still providing protection is often essential.
- Security Rating – Modern firewalls can provide security ratings to specific apps, ports, and other areas of your network so you know where threats may exist.
- Advanced Security Threat Reporting – When a firewall detects or blocks an attack, it can create advanced reports, so you know what threats are out there in case you need to harden your network further.
- IoT Detection and Blocking – IoT devices are becoming more and more common today, and having your firewall configured to only allow the ones you authorize is essential. Just as important, however, to ensure that the IoT devices that can connect are only passing safe data since these devices are often susceptible to hacks.
- Advanced DNS Security – Enabling more advanced DNS security can protect your network from more sophisticated attacks.
Of course, each firewall will have a different list of functions it can perform. Choosing a firewall that can offer all the different types of protection your network needs is essential. Even if you won’t be using a specific functionality right from the start, it is good to have them available when you need them.
Why Not Use All Firewall Functionality?
When choosing which licenses to purchase for your business firewall, it can be helpful to look at why many people opt out of specific options. The most apparent reason a company might choose not to enable a particular feature is the cost. While every firewall manufacturer is different, you will generally need to pay for each required license. In addition, some licenses will come with multiple functions, but they won’t be free. With this in mind, narrowing the scope of functions that you need can help to save a lot of money.
Another reason to avoid using features that aren’t necessary for your environment is the bandwidth they consume. Since firewalls typically operate at the edge of your network where your Internet connection comes in, this can represent a bottleneck point. If the firewall has no features and simply serves as a passthrough point, your network will have access to the full speed of your internet connection. As you add more and more features, however, the bandwidth will be consumed and eventually can cause slowness.
High-end firewalls can perform their tasks and pass massive amounts of traffic, but they are also costly. As you get to the types of firewalls that most small to mid-sized businesses use, the capacity can be a consideration. However, you can optimize performance without giving up security by eliminating features that provide little to no benefit in your specific environment.
Consulting with Experts
If you aren’t sure which appropriate firewall licenses you should purchase, it may be a good idea to consult with a network security expert. Many businesses will use a managed service provider (MSP) to take care of certain things, and security can be one of them. A good MSP will work with you to determine what functions you need from your firewall to purchase the correct licenses. In many cases, they will then be able to set up and configure your firewall so that you don’t need to worry about a thing.
Whether you choose what firewall licenses on your own or work with an MSP, the important thing is that you purchase the proper hardware and licenses for your needs. Taking the time to understand your needs and the features available will help you keep your business’s computer network protected.