Firewalls are an essential part of computer security, though before you attend our information technology school, you might not know just how important they are, and why would you? Consumer knowledge on this matter is more than a bit fleeting. One thing that you might not be aware of is that there are two different types of firewalls on the market, and as a point of humor we would like to mention that it is NOT actually a wall of fire. We’re talking about hardware vs. software firewalls, but what is the difference exactly? Don’t worry, it’s not complicated and we’re going to explain as best we can.
Hardware vs. Software Firewalls – an Information Technology School Basic
The difference between hardware and software firewalls is actually pretty distinct, as we will outline below:
- Software Firewall – This type of firewall usually comes standard with antivirus software on a consumer level but in the professional world there are dedicated firewall software packages. In the past, a great example would have been ‘Black Ice’, but at some point several major security flaws were discovered and IBM discontinued the software when they purchased the company. There are several other home and corporate firewall software packages, and they do a great job of making sure the network is free of outside incursions.
- Hardware Firewall – What we’re dealing with here is actually a piece of hardware that contains a dedicated firewall program. This is usually built into the firmware of a router, and metaphorically sits in front of the network connection. As it does this, it is able to intercept traffic before it makes it into the network and is therefore considered to be the primary line of defense for all of the other network devices. There are obviously different types of routers and hardware firewalls, some of which are better than others. You’ll learn about all of that at our information security school, and it’s a skill that will help you to defend your home as well as any business that you happen to work for.
So now that you know the difference, the big question is whether or not the two are actually interchangeable, and of course whether or not they can be used together. We’re going to cover that in the next section.
Can Hardware and Software Firewalls Work Together?
If you ask the average computer user, they’re going to tell you that the more protection you have on your network, the better off you are going to be, and they’re not wrong. The problem is that most users have no idea how to set up their network in a coherent way. Let’s discuss the concept of ports for a moment.
A port is precisely what it sounds like; it’s a pathway through which information packets are allowed to travel and there is a standard numbering system for you to take into account. For example the internet itself, or rather the HTTP protocol is always routed through Port 80, and there are other protocols, like IRC which will always be routed through 6667 of 8000. Now it is true that you can mix and match the port numbers to create your own set of rules, but you will find that it can get confusing, and sometimes sticking to the original setup is best.
During information technology training you are going to discover that if two firewalls are using two different sets of ports, you’re going to have a bit of a problem. The typical ports, like 80 are going to be the same, but as you know, you’re going to have tons of other custom software applications running, not all of which are going to use standard ports. If the open ports don’t match in each firewall, you’re going to have a serious problem. Namely, the software is going to be blocked.
So what’s the bottom line here? The bottom line is that YES, you CAN make a hardware and software firewall work in tandem with one another but you need to make sure that the ports match up and that none of the firmware settings are counteracting or contradicting with the other. Don’t worry, your information technology training will keep you apprised and ensure that you’re ready to implement these very complex solutions.
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