Any small business with Internet access and a computer network is as vulnerable to malicious Internet dangers and hackers as huge corporations. Large companies can afford to protect themselves with the latest and greatest in technology, often have in-house IT departments and keep software regularly updated. Firewall technology has come a long way in recent times, and there are some very affordable options available to small businesses with limited budgets.
Why a Firewall?
Without a firewall installed, businesses and individuals leave their networks and data vulnerable to Internet hackers. It’s basically like leaving the front door of your home unlocked at night in the middle of a huge city. Businesses stand not only to lose proprietary data and customer information, but suffer downtime and loss of reputation when attacked by hackers.
What Does a Firewall Do?
A properly installed and configured firewall will block incoming traffic based on rules specified by the network administrator or business owner. For example, if your business prohibits employees from engaging in instant messaging, it will block any incoming messages of that type. A good firewall will block certain email messages and Web sites based on content. A quality, affordable firewall should also allow a business owner or administrator to configure the individual computers of employees with Internet settings and content rules as well as protect the network from interlopers.
Are There Disadvantages to Firewalls?
Firewalls can be tricky to set up and require at least some level of IT knowledge to configure properly. A company’s access to certain Internet services can be limited by certain firewall configurations and some can make the Internet slow; thus, less efficient for employees that need to access it for daily tasks.
How and Where Can I Purchase a Firewall?
First, determine the level of protection your business will need. If your company has an ecommerce component, or if you store sensitive customer data on the server, you will need a more sophisticated level of protection. This will cost more, but be worth it in the long run. If you simply need basic protection, there are free versions of firewall software available on the Internet. However, these offer limited protection and may be unreliable at best. Fairly powerful firewall software can be purchased at retail computer stores, online, or through your Web hosting service (ISP). Pricier versions include a hardware component as well and can set you back thousands of dollars. This type of firewall can frequently be used to perform other vital network tasks as well such as routing.
Once the firewall is installed, it is a good idea to test its integrity. Improperly installed firewalls leave businesses just as vulnerable to hackers as if they had none at all. Be sure to use the latest updates and patches for your networking software as well. This will keep hackers from being able to exploit known bugs and security holes. Better safe than sorry — protect your business with a firewall as you protect your home with locks.