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Your firewall – it’s the most critical part of your small business network

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Submitted by Brian Lynch from CMIT Solutions of Burlington, MA on Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Walloffire-300x225When conducting technology assessments at small and medium sized businesses (SMB) we very often find that the most critical component of network security is either not installed or has been installed and forgotten years earlier.  It is hard to argue that a quality business class firewall is an absolute requirement in today’s small business architecture.  Yet many companies skimp on this critical security device and fail to keep them up to date to match the ever increasing external threats.

It is far less expensive to address external threats including hacking, viruses, worms, spam, and malicious content at one centralized point, instead of the costly alternative of addressing issues at the desktop.  When considering a firewall appliance for your business, choose devices that are Unified Threat Management (UTM) solutions.  UTM will provide a comprehensive solution that will address network firewalling, network intrusion prevention, gateway antivirus, anti-spam, spyware, VPN security, content filtering and management reporting.

The ultimate goal is to deploy a UTM device that can be easily installed and configured, provide a comprehensive set of security features, and be managed through a single console.  While many quality solutions exist, CMIT Solutions of Burlington recommends SonicWall TZ series firewalls to its clients (www.SonicWall.com)

Content filtering is just one piece of a comprehensive UTM solution.  Consider the lost productivity or threat to the business of not controlling inappropriate content on the network.  Or the possible threat of a sexual harassment case due to a co-workers indiscretions.  It is very common for small business to provide ‘guest’ privileges on their wireless LANs but with that comes the responsibility of controlling access to sites that could degrade network performance or subject them to scrutiny.

Firewall providers will categorize URL’s so that the firewall device can be configured to filter offensive types of content such as “Violence,” which would include anti-social websites that advocate use of weapons or explosives, or those with sexually explicit content.  Some sites may not be offensive but would otherwise cause a potential risk to the network in terms of bandwidth usage due to software downloads or streaming media.

While choosing the appropriate firewall device to deploy is step one I can’t stress the importance of keeping the device up to date.  Subscribe to the vendors update service for as long as the firewall is deployed.  It serves no purpose to deploy a great firewall and then allow the firm-ware, anti-virus, anti-spam, and content filtering software to age and become ineffective.

So if your firewall has seen little attention in the past years, dust it off and speak to your technology provider about bringing it up to date.  A professional firewall / UTM appliance is critical to your information security.

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