Ever since the firewall was invented in the 1980s, this technology has remained an integral part of the small business and larger enterprise network environment. We will have a look at the six best small business firewalls.
Here is our list of the best small business firewalls:
- Fortinet FortiGate NGFWs A family of quick firewalls that are easy to install and are chock-full of network defense features; they offer enterprise-level security performances and threat protection.
- Firewalla Another maker of some of the best firewall solutions that offer numerous features that allow for total control of networks; their Firewall can be used on networks of any size and help optimize performance and security, regardless.
- SonicWall The TZ Series of firewalls are easy to deploy and are managed from a central console; they can identify sophisticated threats and integrate them well into their host networks.
- Cisco Meraki MX This range of firewalls are products from Cisco, which says a lot; they are cloud-friendly and make the administrator’s life easy, especially, since they come with advanced features like DHCP services and quarantine capabilities.
- WatchGuard This company’s Firebox T40 is a desktop firewall that brings enterprise-level security to the SMB network; it is easy to deploy and can be further enhanced with features like multi-factor authentication of VPNs, for example.
- Ubiquiti They have the USG router that can perform as a firewall; it may be a deceivingly small device, but it punches way above its weight – so much so that it can ensure the security of SMB networks.
We will have a detailed look at the features each one brings to the table.
What are firewalls?
Firewalls are inline networking solutions that are placed in a network to track all the traffic that is passing through that point – in both inward and outward directions.
Firewalls monitor traffic against a set of predetermined rules intended to sift out harmful content. While no security product can perfectly predict the intent of all content, advances in AI, ML, and security technology make it possible to sniff for known patterns in network data and flag them based on similarities to previous attacks on other networks.
Types of firewalls
Let’s have a look at the types of firewalls:
By architecture of firewalls
When it comes to classification based on their attributes or design, firewalls can be of two sorts:
- Software firewalls Installed on a computer or server and protect the network. Many operating systems come with proprietary and built-in software firewalls that offer basic protections. Meanwhile, advanced software firewall solutions can be configured to protect against viruses, malware, ransomware, and other common cybersecurity threats. The advantage they have over their hardware counterparts is that they can be easily configured (using a GUI) and are individually rolled out to every machine that needs protection.
- Hardware firewalls Standalone or router products that live on the perimeter, between the internet and a network. In many cases, broadband routers also include built-in firewalls. The benefit of a hardware firewall over a software one is that they protect all devices in a network without the need to install any software on each device that is being protected.
By the function of firewalls
Many firewalls protect networks against denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and hide network ports from anonymous internet queries. They also defend against vulnerabilities being exploited by acting as proxy servers, preventing scripts from running on websites, and stopping cookies from being stored – this last one stops leaking of personal information.
We can, therefore, categorize firewalls by their functionalities:
Packet-filtering firewalls control network access by monitoring incoming and outgoing packets. They allow them to pass, or not, based on information like the source and destination Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, protocols used, and ports. The packet filtering technique is also known as “static filtering.”
- Filtering of protocol headers on complex web security policies.
- Processing of data packets.
- Can’t filter at the application level.
- Requires tech know how to securely configure the firewall.
- Susceptible to spoofing attacks.
Circuit-level gateways are firewalls secure User Datagram Protocol (UDP) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) connections. They work between the transport and application layers of the OSI Model.
- Privacy protection for data passing through private networks.
- Effective in traffic processing.
- Cost-effective and affordable.
- Although effective with circuit switching, it lacks effective protection of individual packets.
- Requires modification before it is ready to defend a network – meaning tech know how is required.
- Can’t be used to filter content.
Stateful inspection firewalls
A stateful inspection firewall is a network-based firewall that tracks each session of network connections traversing it. It registers connection data and compiles the information in kernel-based state tables. Stateful packet inspection is also referred to as “dynamic packet filtering”.
- Effective against attacks exploiting protocol vulnerabilities.
- Requires fewer ports to work effectively.
- Effective against Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks.
- Requires expertise to configure securely.
- Doesn’t support authenticated connections.
- Ineffective against exploits of stateless protocols.
Application-level gateways (ALGs) are also known as application proxy firewalls. They are security components that augment firewalls or NATs on a network. They allow for modified NAT traversal filters to be plugged into the gateway to support address and port translations for certain application layer “control/data” protocols like FTP, BitTorrent, and RTSP.
The data packets from such applications are blocked or permitted to pass through depending on either the application knowing the address and port number combinations for their packets or the monitoring NAT opening port mappings dynamically and as required.
- Effective in detecting and blocking attacks that may not be visible at the OSI reference model level.
- Conceals private network information.
- Requires expertise to configure securely.
- Requires a proxy for each network application that is in use.
Next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) include advanced features like application awareness and control, integrated intrusion prevention, and cloud-delivered threat intelligence. As the name suggests, it is the “next generation” in smarter threat prevention that makes it easier to secure networks with the help of AI.
- Have traditional firewall capabilities with additional features like intrusion detection systems/intrusion prevention systems capabilities, as well as the ability for malware scanning.
- Ability to monitor network protocols – from the data link layers through to the application layers.
- Efficient in processing network and malware scanning.
- Comes with a higher price tag.
- Might hog processing resources in smaller networks.
- Could become a single point-of-failure in case security is compromised.
Now, you can choose the one that best fits your architecture and specific needs.
Advantages of firewalls for small businesses
Looking at the overall advantages of having a firewall installed:
- It helps control access to the business’ resources They stop unauthorized access to connected assets.
- Stops breaches If no malicious user or code gets through, it means no data will be stolen and no devices will be compromised.
- Increased employee productivity When traffic is only shared among users and applications, it helps ensure QoS which, in turn, increases efficiency.
These are just a few of the numerous advantages there are to using firewalls in business networking environments.
How to choose the best firewall
Some features to look for while choosing a firewall include:
- Filtering capabilities Good firewalls offer robust configuration platforms for filtering options. They enable administrators to block access to dangerous websites.
- Scalability A good firewall should be able to handle the growth of data and traffic as the business grows.
- Antivirus and intrusion scanning capabilities Optimal protection is when a firewall can also offer defense against viruses and intrusion scanning to detect websites and malicious activity to penetrate a network; these are typical characteristics of NGFWs.
- Optimal connection speeds Firewalls should optimize for speed while not compromising the data that is being transported; it is important to deliver packets quickly without their integrity being compromised.
- VPN support It is a great advantage if a firewall can offer encryption capabilities to stop malicious code from compromising the network and the users on it; this also allows authorized users to securely connect from remote locations.
- Ease of use Yes, a network administrator will probably be at hand for the configuration and management of a firewall, but it still shouldn’t take him ages to figure out how to do any one thing; a GUI interface would be of great help here.
- Price It is always a good idea to compare price tags and figure out the ROI of investing in firewalls, even if we agree being safe is a priceless luxury in today’s world of breaches.
And so, it is with these features in mind that we have selected each of the six small business firewalls in our list.
The six best small business firewalls
OK; here are the six best small business firewalls:
1. Fortinet FortiGate NGFWs
Fortinet FortiGate is one of the members of the FortiGate family of NGFWs. The company is the maker of staunch firewalls that guarantee proven protection coupled with unmatched performance across the network, from internal segments to data centers, and cloud environments.
There is a wide selection of FortiGate firewalls and they each form the key component Fortinet Security Fabric – which is designed to simplify the management of a business’ security architecture by integrating all deployed security products and allowing for their centralized monitoring and management.
More features include:
- They are fast – when a FortiGate NGFW detects an event it reports it to the Security Fabric which then determines what information goes where; the firewalls then leverage the automated, policy-based responses to cut resolution times.
- The firewalls are easy to deploy and can be customized to fit any architecture; it also integrates easily and works well with other installed security and bring with them additional defense features like SSL/TLS inspection, IPS, and anti-virus – which can be packed into one device or run individually – without hogging resources.
- The firewalls offer enterprise-class security management, high-performance threat protection of mission-critical applications with the help of validated effectiveness; continuous risk assessments, via security rating and automation, ensure security is always at its peak.
- The good thing about buying a product from Fortinet is that they have a wide catalog of firewalls that can meet unique requirements for any-sized business – from small to enterprise.
- FortiGate technology is based on FortiASIC – the company’s proprietary chipset, processors for accelerating content analysis and processing network traffic – that provides high throughput and low latency, while delivering perfect security effectiveness and consolidation.
- A business that installs FortiGate firewalls can rest assured they will have a staunch defense system in place.
- Installing FortiGate NGFWs helps build a fast security system that covers a network from end to end.
Price: Entry-level Fortinet FortiGate NGFW hardware appliances start at around $500 and could go up to $350,000 for high-end enterprise devices.
Firewalla is another maker of some of the best firewall solutions out there. This is because it goes beyond just being a network gatekeeper. It offers features that ensure administrators or even parents – they have smaller devices that can be used in a home network – have full control of the security of their network.
Some features of this firewall:
- This is a state-of-the-art router and firewall combo that offers dynamic content filtering with content and policy-based routing.
- Firewalla Gold gives advanced insights into the network with deep packet inspection hardware.
- It has port-based network segmentation and VLAN capabilities – as well as network segmentation and lockdown modes – to protect networks and keep attacks from spreading.
- It is truly flexible because apart from being a firewall, it also works as an ad blocker, an IDS and IPS tool, as well as VPN servers and clients.
- All that is required for administrators to monitor their firewalls are smartphones. Information shown includes real-time throughput as well network flow, and blocked flows.
- It offers GEO-IP Filtering to block traffic from an entire country; this can effectively stop malicious users from remotely attacking the network; it also has Advanced Smart Queue to prevent network latency and decongest the network, decrease buffer bloat, and allows for smoother video calls.
- The firewall comes with WireGuard VPN support and Active Protect Rules to block malicious sites, mitigate hacks, and enhance security – in real-time; overall, it helps detect, prevent, and block active cyberattacks and intrusions – it monitors for abnormal trends using intelligent behavior analytics.
Price: Firewalla Gold starts at $468.00 and the company ships worldwide.
SonicWall NGFW provides security, control, and visibility to maintain an effective cybersecurity campaign.
Although SonicWall has a wide selection of firewalls, the one we recommend for small businesses is their TZ Series of NGFWs.
Looking at some features:
- The SonicWall TZ series of firewalls is designed specifically for the needs of SMBs and branch locations – they aim to deliver enterprise-level security without the complexity that comes with such systems.
- The firewalls have Zero-Touch Deployment – an automatic process for configuring the firewalls and a way for easy and centralized management capabilities.
- These firewalls are smart and can detect sophisticated threats – including encrypted attacks.
- They also have advanced networking and security features, like the multi-engine Capture Advanced Threat Protection (Capture ATP) – a cloud-based sandbox service with the support of their patent-pending Real-Time Deep Memory Inspection (RTDMI) for an enhanced capability.
- They are at home on any type of network – they have options like PoE/PoE+ support and 802.11ac Wi-Fi – and serve as a unified security solution for both wired and wireless networks.
- The firewalls have gigabit and multi-gigabit interfaces for faster performances; they connect multi-core, parallel-processing hardware architectures.
- SonicWall TZ firewalls offer single-pass, stream-based deep packet inspection – they can inspect simultaneous network streams and can even detect, and remove, threats over VPN connections.
Price: On average, the low-end SonicWall TZ series of firewalls have a price of $370 which can go north of $3,700 for the advanced firewalls depending on features, upgrades, and support chosen.
4. Cisco Meraki MX
Needless to say, this product comes from Cisco – the leading manufacturer of networking hardware and software – which says a lot about its quality and reliability.
More features from these software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WANS):
- Centralized monitoring – all Cisco Meraki devices are centrally and securely managed from a single cloud and web-based dashboard.
- This centralized web-based dashboard – or API – lets administrators monitor all assets in one view and allows them to quickly resolve issues with ML-powered recommendations that include confidence rating.
- Easy to deploy – the MX family of NGFWs is also easy to install thanks to truly zero-touch; this makes the NGFWs ideal for not only SMBs but also distributed branches, campuses, and data center locations.
- They enhance network security – the firewalls can be used to build resilient SD-WAN connectivity with integrated wired and cellular WAN, switching, and Wi-Fi.
- Centralized management via web-based dashboard or API – monitor all of your diverse global uplinks, including cellular and home-user uplinks, in one view. Quickly remediate issues aided by machine language-powered recommendations that include confidence rating.
- Some advanced features include (but are not limited to) identity-based policies, VPN capabilities, Multiple WAN IP, PPPoE, NAT VLAN support, DHCP services, static routing, and user or device quarantine capabilities.
- A case study has shown that installing Cisco Meraki SD-WANs gives SMBs 20 times more bandwidth and 4G backup while allowing them to save 20 percent on their WAN costs after replacing costly Multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) with broadband and fiber.
Price: the price range for the Cisco Meraki MX series of firewalls ranges, approximately, from $450 to $700.
WatchGuard makes firewalls for small businesses that can be installed physically (hardware) or run as software solutions in the cloud (virtual). This makes it an ideal choice for businesses on the rise – they can rest assured they will always have a defense system in place even as they scale up or even make a move into the cloud.
The firewall we will have a look at is the Firebox T40. This tabletop hardware firewall, the company says, “brings enterprise-level network security to small branch offices, in line with the reality of today’s increasingly distributed work style.”
Some of its features:
- The Firebox T40 comes with cloud-based RapidDeploy technology for creating and storing configuration data in the cloud – come deployment time, and when a new device has been plugged in, the preset configuration is automatically pushed to it.
- Hardware features include built-in PoE+ to power peripheral devices; the firewall is also SD-WAN ready with features like multi-wan failover, dynamic path selection, as well as jitter, loss, and latency measurement.
- The wireless version of the Firebox T40 comes with optional dual-band 11ac technology for a faster wireless network connection, improved reliability, and an expanded range on 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands.
- It can be used for zero-trust implementation as this firewall is easy to configure for strong multi-factor authentication of VPNs passing through it.
- The network can be segmented with ease to separate users and guests – it comes with a built-in wireless guest network.
- A feature most administrators will love is WatchGuard Automation Core – which makes it easy for them to deploy instances from the cloud, remotely block threats, update signatures; they can easily block advanced threats, protect endpoints, and optimize network performance.
Price: the WatchGuard T40 firewall price starts from around $750 and can go up to $2,500 depending on warranties and additional features or services.
Here we have a tech company that makes some of the best edge-to-edge network solutions that include access points, routers, security cameras, and controller devices. Ubiquiti is also the maker of UniFi Security Gateway (USG) – a router that can also perform as a firewall.
Some of its features include:
- Although the device itself is on the smaller side – which makes it very portable – it does punch above its weight.
- It can extend the UniFi Enterprise System [PDF] – an easy-to-use, feature-rich solution for creating scalable, end-to-end systems of network devices – to include routing and security for SMB networks.
- It comes with powerful firewall capabilities and offers advanced firewall policies to protect networks and the data on them; administrators can create virtual network segments for easier security and network traffic management.
- The device features three 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports – the administrator simply connects it to a router and it starts protecting all devices on the network at an optimal speed.
- This firewall is controlled using UniFi Controller – a dashboard that provides a visual representation of a network’s overall status and basic information on each network segment.
- The USG also gives a comprehensive insight into the overall health of the network and lets administrators monitor KPIs, as well as allowing for on-the-fly adjustments whenever needed.
- This is a solution that balances price with performance – it gets the job done without breaking the bank.
Price: the UniFi Security Gateway (USG) starts at $139 but clients can opt for the Pro version (with added features and capabilities) for $344.
Every small business network needs a firewall
We have seen the advantages of firewalls and have seen how they can help improve their networks’ security. We have also seen the six best small business firewalls that they can choose from.
We hope this post has helped you choose the best device on your network. If so – or otherwise – let us know your thoughts. Leave us a comment below.