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Paul Tablan

By: Paul Tablan on June 24, 2022

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Which Firewall Option Is Right For Me? (Types, Pros & Cons)

Information Security

Most business leaders would agree that their IT infrastructure is the backbone of their organization. Without technology, most businesses would be paralyzed. 

At Kelser Corporation, we couldn’t agree more. 

So what is the best way to protect your infrastructure and keep your business moving? A firewall is one piece in an overall layered approach that should be used to protect your infrastructure, users, and data. 

There are several options when it comes to firewalls. Organizations often struggle to figure out which firewall option is right for them. 

In my job as a network engineer at Kelser, I walk customers through firewall options every day. In this article, I’ll highlight three different types of firewalls, explain the pros and cons, and give you an idea about which firewalls are best for different kinds of organizations. 

What Is A Firewall? What Does It Do?

Firewalls keep IT infrastructures safe by monitoring traffic traveling between networks. Based on standard security parameters (and sometimes those defined by your organization), a firewall blocks or allows traffic acting as a semi-permeable layer of protection between your internal computer network and the internet

What Kinds Of Firewalls Are Available? 

Firewalls can be separated into three basic categories: consumer, prosumer, and enterprise (or commercial). 

Let’s explore the pros and cons of each category.

1. Consumer Firewalls 

Consumer firewalls are the plug-and-play models that are available at local retailers. Within this category, there are low-end, mid-range, and higher-end options.

Pros

    • Cost

Consumer firewalls are the least expensive option and can be purchased for as little as $200.  

    • Installation

This kind of firewall is typically plug-and-play. It doesn’t require any technical skill or background to install.

Cons

    • Customization

These firewalls come pre-configured. If you have specific types of traffic that you want to block these firewalls cannot be customized to eliminate specific traffic or threats that you want to avoid. There will typically be high-level parental controls that can be enabled to prevent access to website genres.

    • Updates

Consumer firewalls come pre-configured to block certain existing threats. They lack the ability to update their threat feeds, AV and malware signatures

    • Support

Most consumer firewalls do not come with individual user support. You might be able to purchase a technical or hardware support package from the vendor, but that is typically for equipment failure/replacement of the unit, not for ongoing user support.

    • Warranty

Warranties for these units are typically only available through the retailer (i.e. Best Buy or Geek Squad) or first-party (direct from the manufacturer).

Who Are Consumer Firewalls A Good Fit For? 

As the name implies, consumer firewalls are a good option for individual home use

I would not recommend them for use in a business setting due to their limited ability to be customized. 

2. Prosumer Firewalls

Prosumer firewalls (i.e. Firewalla, Netgate, Ubiquiti, and Untangle) are mid-range choices. They provide more options than consumer firewalls, but not as many as enterprise (or commercial) firewalls. 

Pros

    • Cost

While more expensive than consumer firewalls, prosumer firewalls are not as expensive as enterprise (or commercial) firewalls. They typically run from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

    • Customization

Prosumer firewalls offer some more options to customize the specifications for the traffic you want to allow and block. 

    • Protection

These firewalls offer enhanced protection when compared with consumer-grade options. 

    • Installation

Similar to consumer-grade firewalls, these are basically plug-and-play with a few additional options. They don’t require a deep level of technical knowledge to install and use. 

    • Updates

Some prosumer firewalls have the ability to update their threat feed and threat signatures

Cons

You may notice that some of the features we listed in the Pros section also appear here. I’ll explain. 

    • Customization

Prosumer firewalls still do not offer the ability to fully customize which traffic you allow and which you block. There are more boxes to check in terms of what you allow and block, but prosumer firewalls are not fully customizable

    • Protection

Yes. I realize that I listed protection in the pros section, but it also is a con. Let me explain. 

While prosumer firewalls offer more protection than consumer-grade firewalls, they are still limited in the protections they provide

    • Updates

Some prosumer firewalls do not have the ability to update their threat feed and threat signatures

    • Support

Most prosumer firewalls do not come with individual user support. You might be able to purchase a technical or equipment support package from the vendor, but that is typically for equipment failure/replacement of the unit, not for ongoing user support. In addition, 24/7 support is not typically available, but community forums are readily available. 

    • Warranty

Warranties for these units are typically limited and first-party extended warranties (from the manufacturer) are not available.

Who Are Prosumer Firewalls A Good Fit For? 

Prosumer firewalls are a very good solution for home use. In rare circumstances,  they could be an adequate solution for a small business (5 or fewer employees) with very limited security risks and one location.

Businesses with even a moderate security risk should not use a prosumer firewall due to the inability to update to new and emerging threats and the limited ability to grow with an expanding organization.

3. Enterprise (Or Commercial) Firewalls

Enterprise (or commercial) firewalls (such as Fortinet and Palo Alto options) are designed to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes

Pros

    • Customization

Enterprise (or commercial) firewalls are fully customizable to meet the diverse needs of any organization. 

    • Protection

This class of firewalls provides the broadest protection for an organization’s IT infrastructure. 

    • Updates

When new threats emerge, enterprise (or commercial) firewalls push out updates to provide enhanced security for your infrastructure, making these firewalls a safer option for organizations. 

    • Features
      • Layer 7 Capability

These firewalls can operate at layer 7 (the application layer) of the operating system, making it possible to allow or deny access by application, such as denying access to gambling websites or those that feature explicit content. In other words, the organization has the ability to fine-tune the applications that are accessible to its users.  

      • Deep-Packet Inspection

This is an advanced way to inspect and manage network traffic by identifying (and blocking when necessary) specific traffic. Other types of firewalls do not have this capability.  

      • SSL/TLS Decryption

Enterprise (or commercial) firewalls use secure sockets layer (SSL) and transport layer security (TLS) to decrypt SSL/TLS encrypted traffic so if a malicious actor is obfuscating their attack by using encryption, the firewall can detect and mitigate it.

    • Warranties

Enterprise (or commercial) firewalls come with full first-party warranties from the manufacturer. Some offer the option to purchase extended warranties as well. 

    • Support

In addition to hardware warranties, commercial firewalls come with both technical and user support. This means no matter when you or your users need support, it will be available, minimizing the likelihood of extended downtime. 

Cons

    • Cost

There’s no way to sugar coat it –  many organizations shy away from enterprise (or commercial) firewalls because of their cost. There is no doubt that they are more expensive than consumer and prosumer options, but the cost includes user support, warranties, and other services (like automated updates to protect against emerging threats)

    • Installation

Unlike consumer and prosumer options, enterprise (or commercial) firewalls are fully customizable to accommodate your organization’s specific needs. With this, comes a more complex installation that requires the skills of a competent IT professional

Who Are Enterprise (Or Commercial)  Firewalls A Good Fit For? 

Enterprise (or commercial) firewalls are a good fit for all businesses. They are a bit more expensive, but the risk associated with a cyber attack is greater for commercial entities than for individual users as well. It’s important to protect not only your internal data, but customer information as well. The cost of a breach isn’t just down time and inconvenience, it is also a risk to reputation and a potential loss of business.  

What’s Best For You? 

Only you can make the final decision about your firewall. 

In this article, we’ve explored the three basic categories of firewalls (consumer, prosumer, and enterprise or commercial). We’ve explored the pros and cons of each option. 

We know that consumer is best for consumer use, prosumer could be a solution for individual users or possibly very small businesses with minimal security risk, and enterprise (or commercial) firewalls are the best option for businesses of all sizes

It used to be that cyberattacks targeted large, multinational companies, but that is no longer the case. As a result, it’s imperative that business entities of all sizes take advantage of the protections offered by firewalls.

Think carefully about your organization’s risk of a cyberattack and the potential ramifications of such an attack. 

Decide what makes the most sense for your business and take action!

You may have IT professionals on staff who can help with the selection and implementation of an appropriate firewall or you may need to rely on outside resources. 

At Kelser Corporation, we provide a full slate of managed IT services for our customers, including advice, installation, maintenance, and monitoring of firewalls. We know managed IT isn’t right for everyone, but if you’ve been wondering about it or considering it, check out this article to find out more: Are Managed Services A Good IT Solution For Small & Medium Businesses?   

Or, take the short quiz below.

Are IT Managed Services Right For Your Organization?

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