Firewalls are one of the oldest and most commonly used security defences that we use to keep our computers and digital data safe. In fact, firewalls are so important that they remain a crucial foundation of network protection, even today. How much is your organization’s firewall really doing for you? Here are 11 important features that you need to have in your firewall.
1. Control what applications are allowed on the network
Ever had trouble with employees who just loved a previous version of Windows or Office so much they were reluctant to upgrade when the time came? Or people who insist on using a particular browser, even if it doesn’t support key company software?
With the right firewall, this is a problem with a simple solution: configure the firewall so that users of outdated software are redirected to upgrade—and block internet access to outdated versions. Problem solved!
2. Manage bandwidth for priority applications
These days, many critical applications are cloud-based, meaning they use up the organisation’s bandwidth. Your firewall should be able to prioritize bandwidth for these critical applications, to ensure they have priority over non-critical activities. This ensures these applications have all the resources they need to work as efficiently as possible.
3. Block P2P applications
Peer-to-peer (P2P) applications—meaning software such as BitTorrent—are generally used to acquire pirated versions of copyrighted visual and audio media. Not only is it illegal to download pirated media, it can also eat up a lot of bandwidth, and even worse, can expose your system to dangerous malware.
It’s hard to outright block all P2P applications, because new versions and modified versions are continually being released. However, if your firewall is properly updated, it should be possible to blanket-block most P2P apps, and prevent people from using them on your network.
4. Content filtering
Most people, if they get the chance, are happy to sneak personal internet time in here and there while they’re working. Checking personal email, using Facebook, or watching a video clip—only a few minutes at a time, but it all adds up. If your firewall allows for content filtering, you can keep people focused on work by blocking internet access, or by filtering the content they are able to access.
5. Block individual features in select applications
Because so many organisations use social media accounts as communication and marketing tools, it’s often unproductive to blanket-ban all social media platforms from the network. However, many platforms also have features that you’d prefer employees don’t use during work hours. For instance, marketing personnel may need to update your organization’s Facebook page, but you don’t want people using Facebook to play games.
If your firewall allows, this isn’t a problem, as you can create a policy that allows users to access Facebook, but not the games feature. By blocking Facebook games applications across the board, you ensure that people can still do what they need to on social media, but no more than that.
6. View your traffic in real time
When your network slows down, or something’s eating up all the organization’s bandwidth, you should be able to turn to your firewall to provide answers. With the right firewall, you can quickly detect where your bandwidth is going, why your network’s running slowly, and find out the answers to a range of network-related questions. Better yet if you can do it in real time, rather than having to analyse old data. With the ability to view real time data, you can create new policies as you need them, and immediately start to analyse the effects they have.
7. Manage group bandwidth use
The ability to manage bandwidth priority is crucial—as outlined above—but your firewall can do an even better job in this regard if you can manage bandwidth for select groups of people.
For instance, let’s say you create a restriction on bandwidth for streaming video, and institute it across the entire organisation. But then, you get complaints from an executive who’s having trouble with limited bandwidth when they try to access a training webinar. If your firewall allows, you can solve this problem quickly and easily, by creating a policy that excludes management from the streaming restriction. And while you’re at it, you decide to go ahead and exclude the organization’s training content as well.
8. Block ransomware attacks and security breaches
Ransomware and other cyberattacks are a serious problem, making network security one of the most important issues for any IT department. The ability to block cyberattacks is a crucial part of protecting your organisation from harm, and it’s vital that your firewall is fast, flexible, and continually updated.
9. Identify where connections are coming from
Part of keeping your network safe involves being able to identify the origin of incoming connections. Using IP identification tools is one way of ensuring that the network remains safe from known or suspected threats.
10. Prevent data leaks via email
In some organizations, email security systems don’t properly check outbound email, in that the contents of email attachments go overlooked. One way to detect confidential information—and prevent it being leaked—is to block email attachments that contain “company confidential” watermarks, and other indicators of sensitive content.
11. Prevent data leaks via webmail
What if some employees are using webmail services such as Gmail or Yahoo mail? You can still protect your organisation, by creating a policy that blocks “company confidential” watermarks and other indicators in all web traffic.
If you feel like your firewall isn’t up to scratch, get in touch with us today to discuss the right option for you.