Selecting the right firewall is an important decision for any small business. The firewall acts as the main line of defense against cyber threats by controlling incoming and outgoing network traffic. With so many options on the market, it can be challenging to determine which type of firewall is the best fit for your small business needs and budget.
Why is a firewall important for small businesses?
There are several key reasons why a firewall is a crucial investment for a small business:
- Prevents malicious attacks – Firewalls put up a barrier against cyber attacks like malware, ransomware, phishing scams, and other threats that can lead to data breaches.
- Controls access – A firewall allows you to set customized rules that limit access to your network and sensitive business data. This helps prevent unauthorized users from gaining entry.
- Monitors traffic – Firewalls track all network traffic and activity. Many firewalls have logging and reporting capabilities that provide visibility into connections and traffic patterns.
- Meets compliance requirements – Some industries like healthcare and finance have regulatory requirements to maintain firewalls as part of compliance standards.
- Protects company resources – A firewall shields your servers, computers, applications, and other systems across the network from compromise.
In today’s cyber landscape, firewalls are a must-have for every small business to secure the network perimeter against ever-evolving threats.
Factors to consider when choosing a small business firewall
With many firewall platforms and vendors to evaluate, focus on these key factors to determine the right solution:
Cost is often the number one concern for small businesses. Firewall pricing can range from $100 for basic models up to $1,000+ for enterprise-grade devices. Factor in any additional costs like software licenses, maintenance fees, and professional installation.
Ease of use
Look for an intuitive firewall interface that simplifies management and rule creation. Many next-gen firewalls include pre-configured settings to optimize for small business environments.
Advanced threat protection
Today’s sophisticated cyber threats require advanced real-time protections like intrusion detection/prevention, malware scanning, and web filtering.
For businesses with remote workers or multiple locations, look for firewalls that offer flexible remote management access and robust VPN capabilities.
Reporting and monitoring
Robust visibility into firewall traffic, connections, and events is crucial for monitoring the security posture and identifying potential incidents.
As your small business grows, a scalable firewall platform will easily adapt to increased bandwidth demands, users, and locations.
Support and maintenance
Ongoing technical support and timely firmware/software updates are essential for maintaining strong security over time.
Compatibility and integration
Choose a firewall that seamlessly integrates with your existing IT infrastructure, networking equipment, and other security tools.
Top firewall options for small business
Based on the above criteria, here are top firewall platforms to consider for small business environments:
Next-generation firewall (NGFW)
A next-gen firewall combines traditional firewall capabilities with advanced security protections like deep packet inspection, application control, and intrusion prevention. Leading NGFW vendors include:
- Cisco Meraki MX Firewalls
- Sophos XG Firewall
- WatchGuard Firebox
- Fortinet FortiGate
- Palo Alto Networks
NGFWs start around $500-600 for the hardware appliance and have a per-device licensing model. They provide robust protection ideal for growing small businesses but require more IT expertise to manage.
Unified threat management (UTM)
UTM firewalls bundle together networking and security capabilities like routing, VPN, anti-malware, content filtering, intrusion prevention, and more into a single device. Top UTM options include:
- Sophos XG
- WatchGuard Firebox
- Fortinet FortiGate
- SonicWall TZ Series
- Cisco RV Series
UTM firewall pricing also starts around $500-$600. They provide an all-in-one network security solution that is easy to deploy and manage for lean small business IT teams.
Traditional software firewalls like Windows Firewall or iptables on Linux are free built-in options. However, they have limited features. Some top third-party software firewall options for small business include:
- Sophos XG Firewall (software version)
- Comodo Firewall
Software firewalls have lower cost of entry starting at $50-$200 for commercial solutions. They can run on commodity servers or virtual appliances. While more hands-on to configure, open source software firewalls like pfSense offer enterprise-level protection.
Managed security providers offer cloud-based firewalls maintained offsite. This firewall as-as-service approach reduces hardware costs and IT management overhead for lean small business environments. Top options include:
- Cisco Meraki MX Cloud Managed Firewalls
- WatchGuard Cloud Firewalls
- Sophos XG Firewall Cloud
- Barracuda CloudGen Firewall
- Zscaler Internet Access
Cloud firewall pricing is around $5-$10 per user per month. Scalable protection and availability in a simplified managed service makes cloud firewalls appealing for small businesses with limited in-house IT resources.
Small business routers with firewall
Many leading small business router platforms have integrated firewalls like:
- Cisco RV Series Routers
- TP-Link SafeStream Router
- Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming Router
- Asus RT-ACRH13 Router
- Ubiquiti Unifi Security Gateway
Routers start under $100 making them among the most budget-friendly options. While security capabilities are more basic, small business routers offer an all-in-one solution for routing, WiFi, and VPN.
Pros and cons of different firewall types
Compare the key pros and cons of popular small business firewall options:
|Next-gen firewall (NGFW)||
|Unified threat management (UTM)||
|Small business router with firewall||
When evaluating firewall options for your small business, consider your budget, technical expertise, scalability requirements, and internal resources to manage it long-term. While more affordable, entry-level small business routers have fairly basic protections. Mid-range models like UTMs or cloud firewalls offer a solid set of unified threat management features tailored for lean SMB environments. Higher-end NGFWs provide the most robust enterprise-grade protections with advanced security capabilities, albeit at a greater cost.
Work with a trusted IT provider or managed service partner to assess your specific risk profile, compliance needs, and existing network infrastructure. This will help guide the ideal firewall platform to protect your small business without overspending. With the right firewall in place, you can rest easier knowing your business assets and data are secured from constantly evolving cyber threats.