Hardware Firewall vs. Software Firewall

There are numerous types of firewalls out there; and choosing the best one for your home network is quite an overwhelming task, especially if you are not a techie user. However, installing a firewall to protect your network is something that you don’t want to skimp on.

We have narrowed down your choices of firewalls to two of the most used types of firewalls –hardware firewall and software firewall.

What is a Firewall?

In general, the purpose of a firewall is to protect your network against internet-based threats while blocking unwanted pieces of data from reaching the end-devices. Firewalls provide an essential layer of security that prevents hackers or other malicious threats from accessing your servers. A hardware firewall is a device that is attached to your home network while a software firewall is installed on each of your devices like computers, tablets, or phones.

What is Hardware Firewall?

Hardware firewalls are a lot like a router, albeit with several features. One of the specialties of hardware firewalls is that they allow you to protect your entire home network with a single device. Hardware firewalls are usually incorporated into your network router. That way, a hardware firewall forms a physical barrier between your home network and the internet.

Every data packet is filtered by the hardware firewall for identifying information like origin, destination, and address. That information is then compared to a set of rules that further determine if the data packet should be forwarded or blocked. These firewalls are usually very fast at transmitting network data without causing any negative impact on the speed of the network.

However, these firewalls are not installed on your computer system, so they are unable to inspect the traffic flowing through them. While hardware firewall is excellent at blocking potentially dangerous packets or blacklisted sites, they are not good at filtering traffic based on the actual content.

Pros

  • Excellent in blocking entire websites.
  • Easy installation as there is a single device that needs to be added to your network.
  • Difficult to hack or get disabled if placed at a secure spot.
  • Exceptionally fast, and it optimizes network performance.
  • A single point of installation means reduced overall maintenance.
  • It can function as an ad-blocker to your entire network.

Cons

  • Unable to filter network traffic based on content.
  • The configuration is difficult. A novice might not be able to easily configure it.
  • It may offer limited logs and alerts based on user activity.

What is a Software Firewall?

Software Firewalls are installed in your computers, tablets, phones, or individual servers. Since software firewalls are locally installed on a device, users can have better control over device activities. These firewalls intercept every request by your home network, and they check if the request is valid or not.

Software firewalls adds a deeper layer of security for personal computers. These can filter outgoing data packets as well as check any suspicious outgoing requests.

Perhaps the main drawback of software firewalls is that they can only protect the device where they are installed. Therefore, if you have several computers in your network, a software firewall must be installed on each of them.

Pros

  • A software firewall is affordable and is proven to be an economical choice for home or office network that has a limited number of systems.
  • Easier to install than hardware firewalls.
  • The security level can be defined.
  • Highly flexible and portable.
  • Protects the device regardless of where it is connected. This proves to be an essential feature for business travelers with their laptops or tablets.
  • Much greater control over systems as it is installed individually.
  • Offers excellent alerts and logs.

Cons

  • These firewalls utilize more system resources than hardware firewalls. Thus, it may reduce the speed of your device.
  • You may need to purchase a separate copy for every device connected to your home network, which can accumulate to a higher cost.
  • Not available for Smart TVs, gaming consoles, or other networking devices.
  • They tend to be more costly in the long run.

Why You Need Both Hardware and Software Firewall?

A hardware firewall protects your entire network from potentially dangerous or malicious internet traffic. It is the first layer of security that envelops your entire network (which means all the devices connected to it).

On the other hand, a software firewall is the secondary layer of security that must be installed on individual devices connected within a network. This firewall protects individual devices from potentially dangerous traffic that is not intercepted and blocked by the hardware firewall.

Judging from the differences between their functions, it is a good measure to use both hardware firewall and software firewall, especially if there is more than one computer (which is highly likely) connected to your network.

Final Words

There are many differences between hardware firewalls and software firewalls. That is why the best way to get an overall protection is to use both. Each of them offers different, but much needed security features and benefits.

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