Software vs Hardware Firewalls – The Basics

    April 16, 2003

Was that the right decision? That is a problem not many think about when it comes to protecting their computer or network with a firewall. Although both software-based firewalls and hardware-based firewalls attempt to do the same thing, they perform in different ways.

A software-based firewall is an application that sits on top of the current computers operating system. This software can be installed as an aftermarket item or can be intergraded into the operating system itself. Configuring the firewall can range from walking through a few steps to spending hours configuring it. Once the firewall is installed the user will have to keep up with the latest patches for the operating system and the firewall. If this is not done, it will leave a security hole in the system. The performance of the software firewall will depend on different factors. Things like speed of the computer, how much memory is installed and what the computer is used for will come into play. The price on software firewalls can range from no charge to a few thousands dollars.

A hardware-based firewall, on the other hand, is a physical device that plugs into the network. They usually come pre-configured from the manufacture and installation can be as easy as just plugging in a few wires. The firewall will also allow for further configuration if needed. When a new security flaw is found in the system, the user general only has to install one patch. This makes it easy to keep on top of security holes. The performance of a hardware firewall is near wire speed. This means is the firewall will operate close to the same speed as the network. This provides great performance for the network. The cost of a hardware firewall can range from around a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

Although the software-based firewall is different from the hardware-based firewall; they both will protect a computer and network if properly installed and updated. The choice of using a software-based or hardware-based firewall is a personal choice. The choice will often come down to what the user wants the firewall to do, and how much he/she is willing to spend. Jason Connors has been working in the computer field for the past 5 years. His current projects include setting up a free computer support forums at: