The purpose of any computer firewall is to block unwanted, unknown or malicious internet traffic from your private network. This can mean business, industrial and enterprise network systems; business networks; or simple home networks. Whether you’re building a complicated computer network, running online applications in the cloud, or maintaining a website, knowing what’s the best firewall for your needs — and how to use it — is essential.
Here, we’ll take a look at the importance of internet firewalls, how they work and the five best firewalls for your business or home.
How Do Firewalls Work?
Any internet usage puts your computer, valuable documents and online identity at risk. In 2021, there were nearly 2,000 compromised data incidents. Cybercrime is only on the rise, so protecting your data is a must. One way to do so is by installing hardware-based firewalls, software-based firewalls and cloud technology firewalls.
Firewalls for Computer Hardware
Hardware firewalls are physical devices, such as a wired or wireless router. These devices link to your computer or servers to block unwanted and malicious internet traffic. Hardware firewalls are helpful for enterprise networks, small and medium businesses, and home network systems. Many hardware firewalls feature pre-installed software firewalls for added protection.
If you rely on a hardware firewall to serve as a protective agent for numerous devices, all the computers, devices and servers can be centrally configured with the same rules using a hardware firewall.
Software-based firewalls are popular on personal and company laptops. They can be installed on all major operating systems, such as Windows; macOS; and Linux operating systems, such as Ubuntu and Red Hat Linux.
Software firewalls can be used in tandem with hardware-based firewalls to provide extra security against unwanted internet traffic and viruses. You can purchase commercial software firewalls or install free ones. In addition, you can determine which inbound and outbound computer ports allow internet traffic to come in and go out.
- PeerBlock: This free and unique software firewall blocks groups of IP addresses.
- Comodo Firewall: This simple, free software firewall is available on Windows 8 and 10. Comodo firewalls set HTTP port access and restrictions to control network traffic.
- UFW: This is a free software firewall. The acronym stands for “Uncomplicated Firewall.” UFW is popular on Linux distributions for its ability to set up specific rules for HTTP ports to control the inflow and outflow of internet traffic.
Servers use ports to direct data, such as web pages and emails, to the appropriate location. Each port is assigned a specific number that dictates its function. HTTP port 80, for example, is how you browse the internet. Port 25 handles sending and receiving emails.
Proxy service firewalls, also known as gateway firewalls, protect internal and external computer networks from harmful web sources.
Firewalls on the Cloud
Cloud-based firewalls perform the same function as conventional firewalls: preventing unwanted internet traffic or harmful connections and viruses from getting into your network. However, they’re more like virtual shields and agents for cloud platforms, servers and commercial and residential computers.
Cloud-managed firewalls also protect your other cloud-based infrastructures from attacks within the network. If you’re considering a cloud-technology firewall, you can also use it in conjunction with a software firewall for extra security.
Top 5 Firewalls for Home and Office Use
Ultimately, your internet network needs and budget will determine the brand and type of firewall you’ll purchase. Still, if you’re wondering about 2022’s best firewall, we’ve broken things down into a few categories — best value, best private use, best commercial use, best for Android phones and best for cloud networks — below.
Best Value Firewall: Firewalla Firewalls
When considering a firewall, balancing price and performance is a must. Firewalla hardware firewalls bridge the gap between premium network security features and affordability.
If you’re looking for something affordable but sophisticated enough to thwart dangerous internet traffic and viruses, Firewalla Red offers the best value at $139. The other hardware firewalls range in price from $169–475, and offer advanced features that most home users won’t necessarily need.
Unlike other comparable firewalls, each Firewalla firewall lets you block or filter unwanted websites without paying extra or renewing the service annually. Firewalla doesn’t require any subscriptions. Instead, it offers four affordable choices to accompany Firewalla Red.
All Firewalla firewalls include software to set up HTTP port rules for blocking ad traffic. Businesses can set up private VPNs between offices.
Best Firewall for Commercial Use: SonicWall TZ350
The SonicWall TZ350 model is a hardware firewall with a built-in proprietary SonicOS operating system. Small- to medium-sized business owners can program this model to meet their network security needs through the SonicWall cloud.
This firewall uses cloud-based software and a physical device to block malware, ransomware and other unwanted internet traffic in real-time. Depending on where you purchase your SonicWall TZ350 model, you can expect to pay anywhere from $475–600. The SonicWall TZ350 model works for both wired and wireless networks.
Plus, SonicWall blends the most advanced features with cost-effectiveness, making it a great choice for medium- to large-sized businesses. If you’re part of an enterprise or large business, you’ll find that the SonicWall TZ350 is considerably cheaper than firewalls like Cisco. Not to mention, you’ll get most of the features you’d expect from a high-end model with the added luxury of programming your VPN network from a single machine.
Best Firewall for Personal Use: Norton Smart Firewall
The Norton 360 Deluxe software package is a part of the McAfee brand, which provides home network protection from computer viruses and spyware — all while offering firewall protection with its Smart Firewall package. Norton’s Smart Firewall works with Norton’s Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) to closely scrutinize network traffic that accesses your home or private network.
The Norton Smart Firewall is a part of the Norton 360 Deluxe suite and standard Norton Antivirus software and only works on Windows operating systems. Depending on your needs, you can expect to spend anywhere between $19.99–99.49 for that first year.
Norton 360 Deluxe software package distinguishes itself from its contemporaries by providing a sophisticated password manager. This feature can further encrypt sensitive data like online banking and credit card payments.
Not to mention, this firewall has a unique feature that alerts you if someone’s trying to use your webcam. If you’re a parent concerned about your children being spied on, this Norton 360 Deluxe feature is a must-have. Norton 360 Deluxe also automatically uploads data backups to the cloud.
Best Firewall for Android Phones: NetGuard
While popular firewall software like Norton and Avast work on Android devices, NetGuard is designed specifically for Android phones. You can download the NetGuard free app on your device from the Google Play Store.
NetGuard relies on a local, wireless VPN connection to block unwanted apps from accessing your phone’s information. For extra protection, you can set up custom firewall rules that dictate which apps can access the internet.
If you’re on a phone plan based on data usage, NetGuard lowers your bills by minimizing your phone’s data output. You can also purchase the premium NetGuard app to unlock other features like internet traffic logs.
NetGuard outperforms other smartphone firewalls because its free and paid plans don’t have bloated features. NetGuard, compared to other smartphone firewalls, consumes less of your phone’s battery. It also doesn’t require root access. As a result, you can install and use NetGuard without directly connecting it to your phone, which prevents cyberattacks.
Best Cloud Firewall: Amazon Web Services
Amazon Web Services (AWS) runs on cloud servers and has generated more than $45 billion since 2020, so that says quite a lot about its popularity and dependability. AWS Subscribers have access to the AWS Network Firewall —a stateful firewall, which means the AWS Network keeps an eye on all the web traffic coming into your commercial- or enterprise-level network.
Moreover, local business branches and data centers benefit from the AWS Network Firewall’s ability to analyze risky connections. You can manage the AWS Network Firewall through a private dashboard and set firewall rules for specific HTTP ports, which is great for local branches of larger banks and similarly structured businesses. Plus, Amazon’s offering lets you develop a central network system to manage your network infrastructure across the cloud.
In addition to creating custom logs that record firewall activity, you can link this cloud firewall with compatible third-party software- and hardware-based firewalls, like CrowdStrike and FireEye. Basically, it’s top-tier security that pulls out all the stops.
Before selecting a commercial plan, AWS lets you sign up with a free account. With several different price points, AWS can suit varied business needs. For example, if you only need a specific cloud service, you can save your business a lot of money with AWS, instead of paying for features you don’t need. Compared to other cloud services, like Microsoft Azure and Cloudflare, AWS offers more constantly growing data-collecting services and centers. As of 2022, AWS boasts 16 data collection centers to manage cloud firewall services worldwide.