Most business owners, and likely even most technology users in general, have heard the term “managed firewall” before. But what does it refer to exactly and does every business need one? Read on for some important insights on just what this powerful cybersecurity element is and why it is important for most businesses to have one.
The Definition of a Managed Firewall
Serving as an important element of network security, a firewall is a piece of computer hardware or software that monitors a computer network’s incoming and outgoing traffic, then either permits or blocks the transfer of data to and from the network based on a set of pre-established security rules. In doing so, the firewall protects businesses and business owners from intrusions and potential liability by keeping outside computer users from accessing private or protected data on the network.
Firewalls are crucial to safeguarding the flow of sensitive information to, from and on the network, and in a number of industries such as healthcare and finance, they are even mandated and must meet specific compliance standards. Especially for businesses that handle customers’ personal information, such as financial details, payment information or health data, the firewall is critical to keeping hackers or other ill-intentioned network intruders from gaining access to this and other sensitive information.
The “managed” part of the managed firewall equation refers to who builds and maintains the firewall on the computer network. While it is possible for a business to have staff members create, install and maintain a firewall, the technological knowledge required to do this is relatively high-level. Many businesses simply do not have on-site personnel with the skills, education and experience needed to carry this out nor the funds required to hire a full-time IT staff to handle the ongoing task.
With a managed firewall service, a business pays an outside company or person to establish, install and maintain its firewall, and the work is typically performed by well-trained professionals with advanced knowledge of the ins and outs of network protection. Further, the managed security service providers (MSSPs) that businesses pay for managed firewall services typically monitor the business’s network on an ongoing basis, and many provide regular feedback, reports and analysis regarding the safety and status of the network.
The Benefits of Having a Managed Firewall
First and foremost, the need to keep a business’s network protected from intrusion cannot be overstated. Especially for businesses that handle sensitive customer information, the potential costs of a data breach can be alarmingly expensive, often even fatal to the business itself.
Beyond providing high levels of network protection, a managed firewall can deliver a range of other benefits to a business, including:
- Cost savings — As mentioned above, the expense of hiring a professional IT staff is simply beyond what many businesses can afford. And with a managed firewall service, a business can secure the help of IT experts who will set up and maintain its firewall for a low monthly rate. Further, by hiring an MSSP to maintain its firewall, a business can avoid the up-front costs required for purchasing the hardware and software needed to create and maintain an effective firewall.
- Dedicated professional support — By securing an MSSP to deliver its managed firewall services, a business can gain access to an entire team of IT professionals devoted to keeping its network safe, all without the expense of hiring full-time IT staff members. MSSP team members typically have a strong background in protecting computer networks, including a wealth of education and experience in the field. And when working for an MSSP, these professionals are able to fully focus on delivering network protections without the other time-consuming, tech-related distractions such as email issues and computer problems that a typical business’s on-staff IT personnel must regularly tackle.
- Regular updates — As the tactics of cybercriminals evolve, the protections put in place for network security must evolve with them. By outsourcing with an MSSP for their managed firewall services, businesses can rest assured that the latest hardware and software updates are being made in a timely manner, providing critical protections against the latest forms of cyberthreats.
- Expert insights — Because most MSSPs provide real-time network monitoring for their customers with many additionally providing ongoing reporting and analysis with their managed firewall services, businesses that hire them can gain regular insights into such information as the kinds of threats their network might be facing, the numbers and types of any network attacks that potential intruders might have attempted and any potential cybersecurity weaknesses that might need to be addressed moving forward.
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