What is a Firewall, and Why do I Need One

What are your top 3 priorities when it comes to your website? Design, Content, and UX? Those are all worthy considerations and vital to your website’s appeal. Nonetheless, in an age where digital malcontents are growing ever more inventive and persistent, the answer should be Security, Security, and Security. For websites hosted with dedicated servers, installing a firewall to provide additional security for your web server is an intrinsic part of making your website secure and protecting your brand’s reputation.

But why are firewalls so important? Is your server really that imperiled by not having one? Let’s find out what a firewall is and take a look at some of the top reasons why you need to have one protecting your web server…

What is a Firewall?

In a cloud-based era, servers can be accessed from virtually anywhere. A firewall gives you precise control over who accesses your server based on their IP address and connection protocol, allowing you to slam the door shut on any unauthorized remote access attempts. It works by inspecting each and every packet of network traffic addressed to your protected server, referencing a robust set of rules to determine if it should be allowed to pass, or not. In short, it is a gatekeeper for network traffic. The set of rules defined for a firewall dictate its effectiveness and are flexible enough to allow you to tailor access to only the very specific type of traffic you want.

It’s quick and easy to set up

As a business owner, you likely approach every decision you make by carefully weighing risks and rewards. The good news is that setting up a firewall for your server is a relatively quick and easy endeavor since most Content management systems and hosting providers provide you with a wealth of options to choose from. You have very little, if anything, to lose but a great deal to gain.

Malware attacks cost businesses billions

While the cost and effort involved in installing a firewall for your server are typically fairly minimal, the damage that can be wrought by a malware attack can bring your business to its knees operationally and financially. Most servers contain some kind of sensitive data whether it’s documents, email addresses, or passwords and a leak could cause a harmful chain reaction of consequences. The effect on your reputation alone of such an attack can be extremely costly, not to mention the losses due to downtime and lost irreplaceable data. Malware attacks have cost businesses of all shapes and sizes literally billions.

Not having one could negatively impact on your SEO

As a small business operating in the ultra-competitive landscape of the (nearly) 2020s you know that your website’s Search Engine Optimization plays a huge part in giving you an edge over other businesses competing with you for the attention of customers. All search engines (but especially Google) are extremely conscious of the need to create a secure experience for their users. As such, security provision is a factor that influences their search algorithms. Thus, anything you can do to make your website more secure than your competitors’ is well worth your time.

Hardware or Software Firewall?

Firewalls come in two primary varieties, hardware and software. Hardware firewalls are physical devices that are placed between your server, or servers, and the Internet. Software firewalls, on the other hand, are built into most modern operating systems and run on the server it is protecting. Both varieties share the main features that make a firewall a firewall, but there are differences between the two.

Hardware firewalls come at an additional cost and are yet one more device to manage, but they can provide security for your entire network, not just one system. In addition, they often allow for secure remote access to your network via their ability to function as a VPN access point. For a busy network, it may be beneficial to offload the firewall duties to a stand-alone device, allowing you to eke out every last bit of performance from your protected servers by not using any of their resources for filtering network traffic.

Software firewalls can usually be installed at no additional cost unless you opt to use a premium 3rd party option rather than what comes with your OS or one of the many free options available. For the most part, they can provide a similar level of security to their physical counterparts, but they only protect the device they are installed on, (unless you start routing network traffic through this device, in essence turning it into a hardware firewall).

But you don’t have to choose just one! Having a hardware firewall protecting your network, and a software firewall running on each device gives you the best coverage in terms of filtering out malicious attacks from the internet, and there’s really no such thing as overkill when it comes to server security.

Nothing is more important than your reputation. By increasing the security provision of your server environment, you can help prevent hackers and malware risks from undermining your reputation and scaring security conscious customers away from your business.