Two common pieces of network equipment in an office are a router and a firewall. While the names are familiar, not everyone knows what the key differences are between the two.
If you’re relying on a router for your network security, you could end up learning the hard way that monitoring and managing network traffic is not what it’s designed for. Routers may be great for getting your family connected to the internet wirelessly, but they’re not designed to offer all the security features you can get in an enterprise-grade firewall.
While routers transmit data between your devices and the internet, a firewall is designed to control and monitor that traffic and put safeguards into place that can prevent data breaches and misuse of your network.
Understanding the differences between the two pieces of equipment will help you build a stronger and more secure technology infrastructure that’s resistant to intrusions.
Do I Need Both a Router and a Firewall?
Some companies will think that their wireless router is also securing the traffic in and out of their network, but that’s not the case. Others will want to skip the router all together and just use a firewall for everything. So, which is the right approach?
First let’s discuss what routers and firewalls are each designed to do.
The purpose of a wireless router is to act as a gateway to the internet. It transmits the signal from your Internet Service Provider’s modem into a wireless signal that multiple devices can use to connect online.
On the technical side, the router forwards data packets between different computer networks. Rather than offering strong security for the traffic, the router’s main goal is to simply pass the data back and forth.
The purpose of a firewall is to act as a security appliance and to monitor and control the traffic going to and from your devices, through the router, and to the internet. While some enterprise-grade firewalls will also double as routers, not all do, and thus a router may still be needed to connect online.
Firewalls offer multiple features that help you secure your network and protect against intrusions like spam, viruses, and other cyberattacks. They encrypt data before transmission and monitor all traffic.
There are two main types of firewalls:
- Hardware: Also known as network firewalls, these are physical devices that stand between your computer and the internet and are designed to protect entire networks. (This is the one we’re specifically talking about in this article)
- Software: Firewalls that are built into the operating system of a computer, they typically only protect that specific device.
How Do Firewalls & Routers Work Together?
If you’re not using a firewall that doubles as a router, then you will need to use a router for your wireless internet connection. However, you do not want to use only a router, or you leave yourself exposed and unprotected.
Routers and connected cameras make up 90% of infected devices when it comes to network breaches.
Businesses of all sizes need to have a firewall in addition to their router to properly protect their network. 58% of data breach victims are small businesses. They are often targeted because they tend to have less security than enterprise companies.
What Security Benefits Does a Firewall Offer?
Not having a firewall protecting your network and devices is like leaving all the doors and windows to your house unlocked. Basically, you’re at risk of an intrusion and a hacker won’t even have to try hard to get in.
Here are the reasons you need to use a firewall either in place of (if it supports wireless connections) or along with your router.
Monitoring for Legitimate Traffic
A firewall monitors all traffic and requests made for passing data through your network. It looks to see if it’s from a known device inside the company or if it looks suspicious. If suspicious, it can stop the traffic to help prevent malware infections and data breaches.
Block Dangerous or Unproductive Websites
A firewall can both block malicious sites used in phishing attacks and help you keep your team productive. Want to ensure your employees aren’t spending hours on Facebook while at work? Instead of constantly looking over everyone’s shoulder, just set your firewall to block the site.
Reporting Traffic Patterns
Firewalls log all activity and traffic through your network, which allows you to gain insight into your traffic patterns through details such as data packet destination, source, and size. This can help you learn which network applications consume the most data and which areas of your network have the most traffic.
Robust network firewalls will also include email spam and anti-phishing protections to help keep your employees’ inboxes clean of dangerous phishing emails and from getting overloaded with spam.
Get a Free Security Audit to See Where You Stand
Network security isn’t something you want to leave to chance, just hoping the system you have in place will protect you. Find out how strong your IT security is and get cost-efficient suggestions for improvements where needed.
Schedule your complimentary RCOR security audit today and sleep easier tomorrow! Call 919-313-9355 or reach us online.