Difference Between Hardware Firewall and Software Firewall


Difference Between Hardware Firewall and Software Firewall- Firewalls are a common security solution used by both businesses and individuals. Within a network, they use the security appliance to regulate continuing connections and incoming traffic. By identifying and filtering dangerous data packets, a firewall serves as a security barrier. These packets have the ability to destroy an entire network, as well as any computers or other physical devices connected to it.

Furthermore, depending on the firewall’s setup, it can restrict outgoing or incoming traffic and prohibit specific programmes or apps from obtaining internet connectivity.

Hardware firewalls and software firewalls are the two main types of firewalls. They both offer security services, but they use distinct ways.

A hardware firewall is a physical, stand-alone device that protects a network from external threats.

A software firewall, on the other hand, is a computer programme that regulates and monitors traffic through applications or port numbers. Here are more facts about each firewall category, including its advantages and disadvantages.

Software Firewall

A software firewall must be installed on each individual computer. The useful technology prevents intruders and the outside world from accessing private and sensitive data on a device.

Software firewalls have a user interface that is similar to that of other programmes, making it simple to configure various security measures. A software firewall also functions as a packet filter, ensuring that irregular data packets or those coming from suspect sources do not access the network or devices.

It’s also worth noting that different software firewalls have varying capabilities. Most have rudimentary packet filtering capabilities, while more powerful ones can defend against typical email worms and Trojans.

Regardless of whatever software firewall is used to protect personal computers, all of them have user-defined rules for allowing or restricting traffic generated by active programmes. Web filtering and privacy settings to protect system and data privacy are other characteristics to look for when picking a software firewall.

How Does a Software Firewall Work?

Firewall software is installed directly in the operating system of a machine. It’s security software that digs further into the connected network than just figuring out which port a programme uses to access network resources.

Software firewalls can identify applications attempting to connect to the internet and compare them to a continuously updated database to determine whether they are safe or dangerous. The computer firewall can use this information to allow or disallow an application from receiving or sending data packets.

A software firewall may typically be configured to provide notifications if it is unclear whether an app is legitimate or dangerous, demanding additional action.

The Benefits of Installing Software Firewalls

a. Reasonably priced: The majority of software firewalls are inexpensive. Some offer a free trial version that includes most features for a limited time. After the trial time has over, they continue to provide important services. Furthermore, certain operating systems, such as Windows, provide built-in software firewalls that allow users to specify which apps are allowed to access external or local networks.

There are standalone product firewall solutions as well as antivirus software packages that contain a software firewall.

b. Straightforward installation and configuration: A software firewall is simple to set up and configure. In only a few clicks, users can configure the desired security levels by following the installation procedure. Organizational software firewalls, on the other hand, frequently necessitate the installation and configuration of all devices connected to the local internal network by security professionals.

c. High versatility: A software firewall allows for a great deal of flexibility. A user can, for example, choose which software packages have access to a private or public computer network. As a result, they limit the risk of malware infestations by preventing apps from connecting to potentially hazardous networks. They’re also adaptable, as customers may uninstall them with a single click and replace them if necessary.

Do software firewalls have any disadvantages? While security solutions are necessary for maintaining a secure workplace, they also have a significant drawback.

The Shortcomings of Software Firewalls

a. Software firewalls for multiple users are difficult to administer since they can only safeguard the computers in which they are installed, restricting the capacity to protect many computers with a single software firewall of choice. As a result, business owners must acquire and configure a software firewall for each computer utilised within the company. Furthermore, software firewall products work well if they are patched with vendor updates on a regular basis. Installing and updating security appliances can become costly and difficult to manage over time.

b. System performance impact: Software firewalls may have an impact on system performance. Software firewalls, like other computer applications, consume resources such as memory and CPU, which can have an impact on overall system performance.

c. Expensive for several computers: The more systems or computers a company utilises, the more expensive premium software firewall solutions become. Instead of using a single software firewall to secure all computers linked to a network, a stand-alone software firewall is required for many computers or systems.

However, you shouldn’t be too concerned about the flaws. On the plus side, suppliers have created a number of business-oriented software firewalls that can be installed, configured, managed, and administered from a single location.

Software Firewall Choices

Software firewalls are a common alternative for protecting a home network or a single device for small enterprises and individual home users. If you have access to the internet, you can be sure that hackers are checking for susceptible machines.

A home computer without a personal firewall will be detected, and attempts to obtain access to sensitive data from the outside will be made. On the market, there is a large selection of software firewall solutions. Well-known names like MacAfee, Norton, and Fortinet offer good software firewall solutions.

Hardware Firewall

Let’s now turn our attention to hardware firewalls, sometimes known as physical firewalls. What are physical firewalls, and how do they work? What are the advantages of deploying them in workplace and home networks, and how do they work? What is the difference between a hardware and a software firewall?

A hardware firewall, also known as a physical firewall, is a piece of hardware that serves as the first line of defence against external attacks and malicious programmes. Hardware firewalls secure any devices or machines linked to a network once they’ve been installed.

Hardware firewall solutions, unlike software firewalls, successfully filter hazardous data packets with minimal or no security settings. It’s commonly installed behind a network router and used to analyse incoming network data in order to detect and filter out certain security concerns.

Because it must filter network traffic before it enters a computer, a hardware firewall is analogous to a server. The firewall requires the user to first plug the network wire into the hardware firewall before connecting it to the computer. The optimum place to put a hardware firewall to establish a network perimeter barrier against attempted invasions is between a server and the external network.

A hardware firewall’s four basic functions are as follows:

  • Intelligently control traffic or data packets shared between a machine and a server.
  • Using the firewall configuration rules, analyse and filter network traffic.
  • Remove the strain on a computer’s or a server’s resources. It can, for example, be used to safeguard machines connected to a network in place of software firewalls.

How Does a Hardware Firewall Work?

While network configuration options vary, most physical firewalls have a similar design and operate in a similar manner. The most important aspect is to set the firewall between the external network and the internet in such a way that it protects the entire network from possible intrusions, virus attacks, and destructive traffic.

The packet filter, which examines and analyses incoming and outgoing network traffic data, is one of the most important components of a hardware firewall. Because arriving network data packets lack information about their origin, the hardware firewall uses a set of criteria to determine if the data poses a risk to linked devices if they are allowed to access the network. It also passes the data packets via a list of distinct data types’ access permissions. When data packets fail to match any of the permission requirements, the firewall flags them as dangerous and prevents them from entering the network.

Reasons Why You Need a Hardware Firewall

a. Improved security: Hardware firewalls have their own operating system that is different from that of connected devices. As a result, it is less vulnerable to the majority of cyber-attacks that plague software firewalls. As a result, a hardware firewall outperforms standalone software firewalls in terms of security.

b. Updates and upgrades for centralised protection: A single hardware firewall can protect several devices connected to the same network. Because it offers the same configuration settings to all machines, the firewall provides the same level of security across a network. As a result, the ability to perform security updates at the same time protects connected devices and computers against advanced assaults while also saving time and resources that would otherwise be spent manually upgrading each computer.

c. Consistent safety and security. When a user installations a hardware firewall to safeguard a network, it runs indefinitely unless it is physically removed. Furthermore, unlike software firewalls, hardware firewalls do not require monthly or annual subscriptions, removing the risk of protection failure due to limited functionality. Furthermore, because hardware firewalls are mounted directly on the network, they do not rely on computer processing power or memory. As a result, there is no risk of exposing a network to cyber threats due to insufficient computer capacity.

Disadvantages of Physical Firewalls

What are some of the hardware firewalls’ downsides?

a. Expensive: When compared to software firewalls, dedicated hardware firewalls are more expensive. It is a physical item that must be purchased at a specific price and installed and set up by a professional. Most organisations and individual users do not want to spend all of the costs associated with purchasing, installing, and deploying a hardware firewall.

b. Physical space is required: A hardware firewall takes up some physical space. It might not be the best option for businesses with limited space. Furthermore, a hardware firewall necessitates the use of other physical resources, such as wire cables, in order to be installed and deployed successfully.

c. Requires constant monitoring: Hardware firewalls are difficult to monitor and maintain due to their complexity. To protect against current and complex cyber attacks, they must be constantly monitored and maintained once deployed.

Hardware Firewall Choices

Hardware firewalls are made by reputable security companies including Cisco, Fortinet, Juniper, and Sophos. The security features and capabilities of each model vary.

Some gadgets are designed for huge enterprises, while others are designed for small and medium businesses. Hardware firewalls may contain features that go beyond those found in standard firewalls. Real-time reporting, Data Loss Prevention (DLP), and other security services are available from some of these companies.

The Case for Hardware Firewall vs Software Firewall

External threats originating from powerful sources such as cybercriminals are blocked by both software and hardware firewalls, enhancing network and device security. Suspicious connections between the internal network or machine and external danger sources are prevented by the security appliances.

Configuration and management are required for both software and physical firewalls. Hardware firewalls, unlike software firewalls, which need users to install the programme on each device separately, allow enterprises to protect their whole network from the outside world with a single physical device. Hardware security measures, on the other hand, require sophisticated IT knowledge to install and manage, but software firewalls are simple to set up and monitor from a single computer.

With the increasing frequency and sophistication of cybersecurity threats, two protection appliances are better than one. If one of them falls, the other can assist the other in getting back up. Wherever practical, organisations can deploy both software and hardware firewalls to take advantage of their distinct capabilities in guarding against different types of attacks. In this instance, the hardware firewall will be able to prevent malware from entering the network. The network traffic that passes through the physical firewall can be examined by the software firewall.

Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.