New hardware networking technology has recently become all the rage within the small office/home office (SOHO) community. Almost every vendor now has a hardware solution available for the SOHO market. A perfect example is the hardware firewall, designed from the ground up to be efficient in denying unauthorized access but easy to use—even for novice administrators.

How will this new emphasis on hardware solutions affect the marketplace? Could it eliminate the software firewall market? I don’t think so. While many individuals are using these new hardware devices in a SOHO environment, the fact remains that software firewalls allow a level of control that hardware devices can’t match.

In this article, I’ll outline some of the key benefits of both the hardware firewall and software firewall technologies. Then it’s your turn to tell us what you think.
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Hardware benefits

  • Vendors often bundle different services within one device. As a matter of fact, the Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL 4-port router that I use in my home office is a great example of this advantage. Because this device can serve not only as a firewall but also as a router, gateway, and DHCP server, you get more bang for your buck.
  • Installing these devices is a snap. Plug the device into a LAN or WAN and connect your computers to the device. From that point on, they’re up and running.
  • These devices often have an easy-to-use, Web-based interface. Simply point your Web browser to a particular internal IP address, assigned by the vendor, and make the changes you desire. These interfaces can usually be updated by a software download from the vendor Web site.

Software benefits

  • Software firewalls offer total control. Each machine within the network can be configured to allow specific data port access, such as port 8080 for Web browsing.
  • You can install software firewalls on each machine in the network to allow user-level control.
  • By using software, you can actively monitor the dataflow of traffic coming into and out of your network, allowing administrators to streamline network efficiency.
  • Some software applications can be integrated with products from other firewall vendors. This collaborative approach makes a network more secure than a single firewall solution.

Talk to us
I’ve given you a few of the benefits of using hardware or software firewalls. Now I want to know which one you prefer and why. Post your opinion below or send us a note and make your case for the virus software that you feel reigns supreme.
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