What Are the 3 Types of Firewalls?

Ronan Short
December 10, 2023

Business owners constantly seek ways to protect their digital assets and client data from online threats. Choosing the right firewall can be confusing, with so many options and technical terms.

Recent statistics are alarming: nearly 58% of Irish businesses faced cyber attacks in 2022, highlighting the critical need for strong firewalls. This article simplifies the three main types of firewalls, explaining them in easy terms to help you make the best choice for your business.

Understanding these options is key to better online security for your business. So, let's explore these firewalls and find the right fit for our needs.

Key Takeaways

  • There are three main types of firewalls: software firewalls for individual devices, hardware firewalls for entire networks, and cloud-hosted firewalls as a service.
  • Firewalls work by monitoring and controlling incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules to protect against cyber threats.
  • To choose the right firewall for your business, consider factors such as network sizetype of data being transmittedlevel of control required over traffic, and additional security features like intrusion detection or VPNs.

Overview of Firewalls

A firewall is a network security device that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. It acts as a barrier between your internal network and the internet, allowing only authorised traffic to pass through.

Understanding how firewalls work is crucial to protecting your business from cyber threats.

What is a firewall?

We see a firewall as a security guard for your business's computer network. It checks data coming in and out of your network, deciding if it's safe or not. This helps stop hackers and harmful software from getting into your computers.

Just like a real fence keeps people from wandering somewhere they shouldn't go, a firewall keeps dangerous traffic away from your precious business information. Its main job is to protect the digital side of what you've worked so hard to build, making sure that only good internet traffic gets through.

How do firewalls work?

Firewalls act as a barrier between your network and the outside world. They examine all incoming and outgoing traffic, acting as gatekeepers to filter out potentially harmful data.

Packet filtering firewalls inspect data packets based on predetermined security rules, allowing or denying them passage. Stateful inspection firewalls monitor the state of active connections, making decisions based on the context of traffic flow rather than just individual packets.

Application-level gateways work at the application layer of the OSI model, providing deep inspection for specific applications such as HTTP or FTP.

Firewall Types Based on Delivery Method

When it comes to the delivery method, there are three types of firewalls: software firewalls, hardware firewalls, and cloud-hosted firewalls. Each type has its own unique set of advantages and considerations for deployment within a business network infrastructure.

Software firewalls

Software firewalls are like having a guard at the entrance of your computer. They protect your device by monitoring and controlling the data traffic coming in and going out. With a software firewall, you can decide which apps and programmes are allowed to connect to the internet, adding an extra layer of security to your system.

It's important for Irish business owners to have a reliable software firewall installed on their devices, as it helps safeguard sensitive company information from potential online threats and cyber-attacks.

Software firewalls act as a digital shield for your network infrastructure. By using this type of firewall, businesses can ensure that their data is encrypted, access control is managed effectively, and only authorised connections are permitted within their network architecture.

Hardware firewalls

Hardware firewalls are physical devices that act as the first line of defence for your network. They provide a strong barrier between your internal network and the outside world, filtering all incoming and outgoing traffic.

This type of firewall is ideal for Irish businesses looking for robust network protection without relying on individual computers to run security software.

By inspecting packets at the hardware level before they reach your network, hardware firewalls can effectively block potential threats such as malware and unauthorised access attempts.

Cloud-hosted firewalls

Now, let's talk about cloud-hosted firewalls. If you want a flexible and scalable firewall solution that doesn't require hardware or manual updates, this might be the right choice for your business.

Cloud-hosted firewalls are managed by a third-party provider and offer protection at the network perimeter without the need for on-site equipment. They work well for businesses with remote workers or multiple office locations, providing consistent security regardless of physical location.

Cloud-hosted firewalls can be an excellent option if your business relies heavily on cloud-based applications and services. By leveraging the power of the cloud, these firewalls can provide comprehensive threat management and secure access to virtual private networks (VPNs) while offering reliable network monitoring and data encryption.

Firewall Types Based on Method of Operation

When it comes to the method of operation, there are three main types of firewalls: packet filtering firewalls, stateful inspection firewalls, and application-level gateways. Each type has its own unique way of inspecting and controlling incoming and outgoing network traffic to ensure the highest level of security for your business.

Packet filtering firewalls

Packet-filtering firewalls are like security guards that check the packets of data entering or leaving a network. They examine the packet's header information, such as source and destination IP addresses and ports, to decide whether to allow or block them.

This type of firewall is good at quickly processing large amounts of data but may not inspect the actual contents of the packets.

We can set rules for packet filtering firewalls to determine which types of traffic are permissible. For example, we can permit incoming traffic on port 80 for web browsing while blocking other ports that are not essential for our business operations.

Stateful inspection firewalls

Stateful inspection Firewalls monitor the state of active connections and keep track of their context. They assess each packet against a set of established criteria, ensuring that only legitimate traffic is allowed through.

With their ability to understand the state of network connections, they provide better security by analysing not just individual packets but also the overall context of the traffic.

These firewalls are an essential part of modern business networks as they offer more comprehensive protection compared to packet-filtering firewalls. By maintaining awareness of connection states, Stateful inspection firewalls effectively prevent unauthorised access and protect sensitive data from malicious activities.

This level of security is crucial for safeguarding your business's digital assets from potential cyber threats.

Application-level gateways

Application-level gateways, also known as proxy firewalls, examine incoming data at the application layer of the OSI model. This means that they can understand and control specific applications or services, such as email or web traffic.

By doing so, they can provide more thorough inspection and filtering of traffic compared to other types of firewalls.

This type of firewall adds an extra layer of security by analysing the content of the data packets passing through it, not just the header information. It provides a high level of control over what types of traffic are allowed in and out of the network, making it suitable for businesses that handle sensitive data or require strict controls on their network traffic.

Choosing the Right Firewall for Your Business

Consider your network's needs, understand the different types of firewalls, evaluate the level of security required, and determine budget and resources. Make an informed decision to protect your business from cyber threats.

Read on to find out more about the three types of firewalls.

Consider your network's needs

Assessing your network's needs is crucial when choosing a firewall for your business. Understanding the size of your network, the type of data being transmitted, and the number of users accessing it will help determine which type of firewall is best suited to protect your system effectively.

Identifying potential vulnerabilities in your current network infrastructure will also aid in selecting a firewall that can address those specific security concerns. Analysing the level of control and monitoring required over incoming and outgoing traffic will further guide you towards finding the most suitable firewall solution for safeguarding your business operations.

Evaluate how much protection your network requires against external threats like hacking attempts or malware. Consider whether additional features such as intrusion detection or virtual private networks (VPNs) are necessary to enhance security measures within your network environment.

Understand the different types of firewalls

Now that we've considered your network's needs, it's important to understand the different types of firewalls. There are three main types based on delivery method: software firewalls installed on individual devices, hardware firewalls that protect an entire network, and cloud-hosted firewalls offered as a service.

Then there are also firewall types based on method of operation: packet filtering firewalls that inspect packets of data, stateful inspection firewalls that track the state of active connections, and application-level gateways that provide advanced inspection capabilities.

Understanding these options will help you make an informed decision when choosing the right firewall for your business.

Evaluate the level of security required

Now that you understand the different types of firewalls available for your business, it's essential to evaluate the level of security required. Consider the sensitivity of the data and information being handled within your network.

Assess the potential risks and threats that your business may face, taking into account factors such as industry regulations and compliance standards. Determine whether a basic level of protection will be sufficient or if more advanced security measures, such as intrusion detection systems or deep packet inspection, are necessary to safeguard your network from sophisticated cyber threats.

Keep in mind that evaluating the security needs of your business is a critical step in selecting the right firewall solution. By understanding these requirements thoroughly, you can make an informed decision on which type of firewall will best suit your specific security needs without overburdening your budget or resources.

Determine budget and resources

When deciding on a firewall for your business, it's important to consider the budget available and the resources at hand. Look at how much you can afford to invest in a firewall and also evaluate what kind of technical expertise is accessible within your team or externally.

Understanding these factors will help in choosing the most suitable type of firewall for your business.

Considering your network's needs, understanding the different types of firewalls, evaluating the required level of security, and determining budget and resources are essential aspects of selecting the right firewall for your business.


In conclusion, we've covered the three main types of firewalls. You now understand how they work and how to choose the right one for your business. Implementing these strategies will improve your network security effectively.

Your firm's cybersecurity will benefit significantly from employing a suitable firewall type. Explore further resources to deepen your knowledge on this critical subject. So, let's take proactive steps towards securing our networks today!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main types of firewalls?

There are three main types of firewalls: packet filtering, stateful inspection, and proxy servers.

How do you choose the right firewall for your network?

You choose the right firewall by looking at what you need for your network. Think about how much security you want and what kind of internet traffic you have.

What does a Virtual Private Network (VPN) have to do with firewalls?

A Virtual Private Network or VPN uses a firewall to keep data safe when it is sent across the internet.

Why is a firewall policy important?

A firewall policy is important because it tells the firewall rules on what data can come in or go out of a network to keep it safe.

Can firewalls protect against all types of cyber threats?

Firewalls are great for blocking many types of cyber threats, but they can't stop everything. It's important to combine them with other security tools, like antivirus software and malware detection, for full protection.

What's the difference between a software and a hardware firewall?

Software firewalls protect individual devices by controlling the data that comes in and out of them. Hardware firewalls, on the other hand, guard your entire network by filtering traffic that passes through the network's entry point.

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*FYI, parts of this blog post were drafted by artificial technlogy. But rest assured, it's been thoroughly researched, edited, reviewed and me & my team.
Ronan Short
Founder @ IT Support 4U

Ronan Short, the founder of IT Support, is a trusted authority in the IT industry, passionate about providing top-tier tech support at IT Support. Dedicated to solving complex problems with simplified solutions, catering to all your SME IT needs with cost-effective solutions.