There are multiple types of firewalls but you can classify them into two major types here. One is the hardware firewall, the other is the software firewall. What’s the difference between them and which one is more suitable for you? This article about hardware vs software firewall on MiniTool Website can show the answer.

First of all, the hardware firewall and software firewall can serve you the same purpose. There may be some nuances between them but typically, they are much the same. In the next part, this article will guide you to distinguish a hardware firewall from a software firewall.

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What Is Hardware Firewall?

A hardware firewall is a physical device that is used to filter traffic to a computer. Hardware firewalls are most seen in broadband modems and play the role of antivirus solution for your server.

Like a standard computer, the device uses powerful network components and forces all traffic through that connection to be checked through a configurable set of rules, granting or denying access accordingly.

Before an Internet packet arrives at your computer, the hardware firewall monitors the packet and checks where it came from, as well as whether the IP address or header is trusted.

Usually, the network cable is directly connected to the computer or server. For a hardware firewall, the network cable is connected to the firewall first. Firewalls are located between the external network and the server, providing an antivirus solution and a solid barrier against intrusions.

It blocks any links that contain malicious activity based on the current firewall settings on the device. After these checks, the packet will arrive at your computer.

Hardware firewalls typically do not require extensive configuration, and most rules are built-in and predefined and are based on those built-in rules.

What Is Software Firewall?

Different from the hardware firewall with a physical device, software firewalls are installed on a host. Firewall software is widely used on personal and company laptops running Windows, macOS, and other Unix-like operating systems.

It enables fine-grained network access decisions to be made at the application level and the firewall allows you to select only the services required for normal network operation and set policies based on the configuration file.

Next, for a better understanding of the difference between hardware firewalls and software firewalls, you will learn them from different aspects.

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Hardware vs Software Firewall

Working Operation

Hardware firewall:

The hardware firewall is installed on personal devices, such as computers and phones, and prevents the user or device from accessing individual components of the network. It basically checks packets and then blocks unauthorized access.

Software firewall:

The software firewall is installed between the computer and the Internet so that it is not easily accessible. Using the network cable to connect the firewall instead of the router creates a barrier to the flow of data packets in and out of the network.

It protects against viruses, malware, spyware, email spam, and other similar attacks from outside.

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Cost

Hardware firewall:

For its physical device, it requires high-cost materials and you may need to invite professionals for the installation. The expenditure is an initial investment for future convenience.

Software firewall:

With its better flexibility and no other professional requirements, you don’t need to spend too much money and energy on it. For different products, some monthly subscriptions are required.

Installation

Hardware firewall:

Compared to software firewalls, the installation and configuration are harder. It needs only one hardware to be installed for a whole network.

Software firewall:

With software firewalls, you can enjoy better flexibility to choose which application has to be installed. Software firewalls are required to be installed on every individual system on a network and the configuration is easy to go.

Performance

Hardware firewall:

Hardware firewalls protect a whole network at a time and at the same time, the performance of the computer won’t be cut down. Besides, a domain or website can be blocked using a hardware firewall.

Software firewall:

With software firewalls, you can protect one system at a time and they are not enabled for smart TVs, gaming consoles, and other devices. In a software firewall, content based on keywords can be blocked. However, the performance of computers will slow down.

Features

Hardware firewalls can provide network-level functionality:

  1. A hardware firewall is a border device that separates one part of a network from another, which allows them to take on the role of a router and decide which network path a packet takes to get to its destination.
  2. A common feature of hardware firewalls is the ability to hide private networks from a public routable address space. This saves IP addresses and hides internal addresses, which saves costs and improves security.
  3. Hardware firewalls separate large groups of computers, so there is also some benefit from economies of scale in terms of deployment and management.

Software firewalls can provide host-level functionality:

  1. The host has more fine-grained control over the applications allowed on the host and the network access to those applications.
  2. On-device monitoring provides a rich source of data that can help respond to threats.

Pros and Cons

Hardware firewall:

Pros:

  1. Single-device network control. Hardware firewalls run on their own hardware, which means that increases in traffic or security requirements do not affect the performance of the protected computer.
  2. Simultaneous updates and protection upgrades for all computers on the network. Any updates or configuration changes that are required can be applied once and will instantly apply to all devices protected by the firewall.
  3. Constant protection and better security. A hardware firewall that runs on its own dedicated hardware helps protect computers from attacks.
  4. Increased bandwidth enables the handling of more data packets per second and users can enjoy a reduced latency.

Cons:

  1. The installation needs professionals to operate.
  2. Physical spaces are required.
  3. Hardware firewalls are used for incoming traffic only.

Software firewall:

Pros:

  1. Helpful in blocking particular sites.
  2. Juniors and parental controls can be supervised.
  3. Ease in maintenance.
  4. Valuable for home users.
  5. Assignment of different levels of access and permissions to the user can be done with ease.
  6. Software firewalls have deep visibility into device network activity that can be used by an Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solution.

Cons:

  1. Installation and up-gradation are required on individual computers.
  2. Slow performance of the system.
  3. System resources are consumed.
  4. Does not work on smart TVs or gaming consoles.

A Wrap-up for Their Difference

This is a thumbnail version of physical firewall vs software firewall and it will be more intuitive to figure out which one is your best choice.

Hardware firewall:

  1. Protect the entire network.
  2. Standalone physical device.
  3. Need a professional to install and manage.
  4. Require monitoring.
  5. No updates are needed
  6. No server resources are occupied.
  7. High cost.
  8. For business use.

Software firewall:

  1. Protect a single device.
  2. Need to install on every network device.
  3. The installation requirement is easy to go.
  4. Need to do a regular manual update.
  5. Automatic monitoring system.
  6. Occupy server resources.
  7. Low cost.
  8. For personal use.

Recommendations for Hardware and Software Firewall

In the next part, you will see some recommendations for firewalls. There is some basic information and you can take that as a reference.

Hardware Firewall

Bitdefender BOX 2

  • One-year subscription to Bitdefender Total Security software solution.
  • BOX Network Security Hub can be used to monitor and manage your device ecosystem.
  • Vulnerability assessment and intelligent profiles for secure device management.
  • 1 GB of DDR3 memory onboard, along with 4 GB of internal storage.
  • The subscription is $149.99 for a 1-year and $99 for renewal.

Cisco Firepower

  • It supports data transfer between 890 Mbps and 190 Gbps.
  • You can enjoy over 99% threat blocking effectiveness and URL filtering for 80+ categories.
  • On-premise Management Center or Cloud-based Cisco Defense Orchestrator is available.

Software Firewall

FortiGate

FortiGate is a firewall option with high integration. It offers multiple deployment options and next-generation firewall capabilities, including integration with IaaS cloud platforms and public cloud environments.

WatchGuard Network Security

WatchGuard Network Security is a network security and firewall software. WatchGuard includes secure Wi-Fi, multi-factor authentication, and network intelligence products and services designed for SMBs.

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Can a Firewall Fully Protect Your Computer?

Firewalls are vital for stopping dangerous or fraudulent traffic from accessing your network. They block specific programs from accessing the Internet if the activity is deemed too risky.

If you frequently connect to a public, insecure Wi-Fi network, firewalls are mainly used to protect against malicious online attacks. Once a virus has invaded your computer, you will need antivirus software to remove it.

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In other words, the firewall is not as good as safe. Even though the firewall and antivirus programs are set on your computer, vulnerability still exists in your computer and that may cause some severe results, such as data loss, system crash, etc.

Therefore, backup can be your ultimate choice and you don’t need to worry about data loss resulting from any malicious attack.

Your Right Hand to Prevent Data Loss

MiniTool ShadowMaker is an excellent backup assistant and has become a reliable partner to help users prevent data loss. The program has a variety of features to enhance its backup feature. Apart from backup, MiniTool ShadowMaker can also provide sync and disk clone functions for you.

Now, let’s start your backup journey!

First of all, you need to download and install the program and you will get a 30-day trial version for free. Then you can follow the next steps to get your backup.

Free Download

Step 1: Open MiniTool ShadowMaker and click Keep Trial on the top right corner. And then switch to the Backup tab.

Step 2: Click the Source section and in the pop-up window you can choose backup content including system, disk, partition, folder, and file. By default, the system has been set as the backup source already.

choose backup content

Step 3: Go to the Destination part where you can see four options containing the Administrator account folder, Libraries, Computer, and Shared. Then choose your destination path. And then click OK to save your changes.

select destination path

Step 4: Click the Back up Now option to start the process immediately or the Back up Later option to delay the backup. The delayed backup task is on the Manage page.

Besides, there are some other options to facilitate your backup. For example, you can set a password for your backup to improve the security level or compress the backup content to save space. More features are waiting for your try.

This article has introduced the difference between a hardware firewall and a software firewall. If you like this article and think it is useful for you, you can share it on Twitter.Click to Tweet

Bottom Line:

According to the article about hardware vs software firewall, you can choose one of the firewalls as your protective shield in case of an accident. Besides, with enhanced precaution consciousness, more and more people choose backup as another choice.

If you have encountered any issues when using MiniTool ShadowMaker, you can leave a message in the following comment zone and we will reply as soon as possible. If you need any help when using MiniTool software, you may contact us via [email protected].

Hardware vs Software Firewall FAQ

What are the 3 types of firewalls?

  • Hardware-based firewalls. A hardware-based firewall is an appliance that acts as a secure gateway between devices inside the network perimeter and those outside it.
  • Software-based firewalls. A software-based firewall runs on a server or other device.
  • Cloud/hosted firewalls.

Do I need Windows Firewall if I have a hardware firewall?

In general, hardware firewalls, typically provided by Network Address Translation (NAT) routers, keep malicious network traffic from ever reaching your computer, whereas software firewalls, such as the Windows Firewall, discard malicious traffic after it has actually arrived at your computer. But you don't need both.

Which firewall is most commonly used?

A web application firewall (WAF) is most similar to the proxy firewall but has a more specific focus on defending against application layer web-based attackers. As the threat landscape intensifies, the Next-generation firewall (NGFW) is the most popular firewall type available today.

Is a firewall on the router necessary?

Since a router is the main connection from a home network to the Internet, the firewall function is merged into this device. Every home network should have a firewall to protect its privacy.

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