As a small business, you may not have an in-house IT team taking lead on your cybersecurity. This means it’s up to you to locate the best security measures for your internal networks, and that starts with deciding upon the best firewall.

A firewall is essential in the protection of your company’s sensitive data and overall network security.

It’s best to hire an MSP (managed service provider) to oversee the installation and secondary monitoring of a firewall. However, you should also be knowledgeable about what firewall your business chooses, how it will work, and what type of protection it will provide.

Below, we’ll go over three of the best small business firewalls recommended by IT experts. But first, let’s define what a firewall is and why your small business needs one.

What Are Firewalls?

Firewalls are just what they sound like: A shield or barrier that separates the safe and trusted internal networks integral to your business from possibly unsafe outside networks, such as the Internet at large.

Essentially, firewalls are the first line of defense in network security. The primary role of a firewall is to follow a specific outline of security rules and to use this security rubric to monitor both incoming and outgoing network traffic. As the firewall monitors traffic, it ensures that all traffic fits the aforementioned security rules. If something does not match the rules, it gets blocked and flagged, and you and your IT team are immediately notified.

There are many types of firewalls, including traditional firewalls (tactful inspection firewalls), proxy firewalls, NGFWs (next-generation firewalls), threat-focused NGFWs, and UTM firewalls (unified threat management firewalls).

Firewalls are generally a form of software, although they can be hardware or a combination of both software and hardware as well. They have been used by cybersecurity and IT specialists for more than 25 years to great effect.

Do You Really Have to Have a Firewall?

The short answer is yes.

Firewalls are recommended by nearly all cybersecurity specialists as a first line of defense against hackers, malware, and other undesirable access attempts within your network.

Firewalls secure your company’s data, which is crucial, especially when it is financial information related to your business or personal data, such as employee information or sensitive client data.

Unique Benefits of Firewalls for Small Businesses

• Comprehensive monitoring: Naturally, the most important role of a firewall is to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic. This allows you to be notified instantly if anything potentially hazardous is found going in or out of your networks.

• Reduction in unauthorized remote access and subsequent security breaches: As a result of comprehensive monitoring, firewalls stop hackers from infiltrating your networks or individual computers with malware. In turn, this reduction in security breaches also reduces the amount of time, money, and energy you and your IT team would have to have spent on remedying a security breach. Even the small amount of downtime that may result from such a cyberattack can cost a small company hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

What Are the Top 3 Firewall Options for Small Businesses?

The following is a list of the top three firewall products recommended by IT experts for use within small businesses.

1. FortiGate Firewalls by FortiNet

Both Adam A. Fadhli, President of Discovery Information Technologies™, and Phil Cardone of Radius Executive IT Solutions, say FortiGate products are the best firewalls for small businesses.

Fadhli states that his company, Discovery Information Technologies™, has “used FortiGate firewalls almost exclusively … for the past 15 years.” He likes FortiNet’s firewall products because they were one of the first firewall companies “to offer a ‘next generation’ firewall which went far beyond the simple ‘ports and protocols’ protection of products like the Cisco PIX or ASA’s of the time.”

Cardone emphasizes how cost-effective FortiNet’s product portfolio is (it’s all-inclusive instead of a la carte as many other firewall products are).

Fadhli agrees: “FortiNet has developed a comprehensive ‘Unified Security Fabric,’ which ties all of their security products together to provide a holistic security environment … And all of these platforms integrate together to provide a unified security posture … Having one platform that ‘does it all’ allows us to be very efficient at supporting our clients.”

Cardone also stresses that the “ease of implementation and standardization between platforms ensures that technicians that service one type of device will know how to work on nearly all devices in their portfolio.”

When help is needed, FortiGate also has an excellent support staff. Product renewals are simple as well.

2. Sonicwall – Primarily the TZ Series

According to Molly Antoine, Director of Operations at SunRiver IT Partners, the TZ series of Sonicwall is another excellent firewall option for small businesses. Antoine states:

“It is a low-cost [firewall] solution that is easily managed and has features available to protect the user’s network, like IPS, Content Filtering, Anti-Spam, ATP, and others.”

3. A UTM Device in Place of More Traditional Firewalls

An alternative to a traditional firewall is a UTM device. According to Greg Motz of Motz Technologies LLC, “We always recommend a UTM device over a firewall. A simple firewall just does not cut it anymore.”

UTM devices, or unified threat management devices, are a combination of several security measures. Typically, a UTM device is an arrangement of intrusion prevention and antivirus software that couples with a stateful inspection firewall. UTM devices are supposed to be easier to use, and they also often come with cloud management and other services to meet the client’s business needs.

For Motz, Utangle is the UTM of choice:

“For small businesses we normally recommend Untangle. It’s great for growing businesses because the unit itself comes with basic UTM functions that can be enhanced with premium add-ons as needed.”

Does your small business have a firewall? If not, speak to your managed service provider about implementing a comprehensive firewall that will protect your business from a possible breach or malicious software.

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