Software Firewall Vs Hardware Firewall: Pros and Cons

Last updated on September 3rd, 2022

A firewall is a pillar of resistance for your computer system that protects it from malicious attacks over the network. Firewalls act according to their name: it acts as a wall of fire against unauthorized access while filtering in the secured sites. It can also be thought of as a layer that protects the system secured within from all kinds of attacks or access from malicious parties. It also happens to be the first and quite an efficient level of protection and closely works in association with your modem. Any information that arrives from an insecure or even suspicious source is ignored and not allowed access!

The firewall is like the guard at the gateway to network access and hence works in sync with the gates- the router. It efficiently checks all the little network packets trying to get into your system. It has the benefit of being loaded in a separate, secure computer, and hence, all the information has to pass through this computer before accessing yours! There are two types of firewall that you will find:

  • Software Firewall
  • Hardware Fire

These two kinds of firewalls closely work together to create a secure network for you.

What is Hardware Firewall?

These are hardware units that are built into the router to act as a primary level of protection. Such kind of firewall is located at the gateway and efficiently checks all the incoming network information. The firewall checks for such pieces of information as to the origin, a destination address, and so on. Once the firewall gets the information it checks it against a certain defined set of regulations and only allows the information to pass if it checks correctly throughout the list. All kinds of router are supposed to be loaded with a hardware firewall and it is crucial to check for such information before purchase.

Advantages of Hardware Firewall 

  • All you will need is a single hardware firewall setup. This singular device is capable of handling and filtering the entire network and thus gives you a seamless experience. For established companies with lots of computers, this is a very important and desirable feature.
  • Even if you are using a broadband internet connection in your company such as a cable modem or DSL modems, a hardware firewall will be compatible with the device and work just fine!
  • Anything that is working on or through your computer system is likely to use its resources. However, a hardware firewall is a separate unit that acts independently. Thus, the hardware firewall will not make your computer system slower or affect its performance in any way.
  • Malicious software programs do not have that kind of a vulnerable effect on a hardware firewall as it does on a software firewall.
  • The entire network can be protected and secured by using only one hardware firewall unit and thus this comes as quite an affordable means of protection.  

Disadvantages of Hardware Firewall 

  • If you are a novice, you may have some trouble with handling and configuring the hardware firewall unit as it requires some practice.
  • Any traffic that is traveling out of your network is considered safe by the hardware firewall. If for instance, this is an activity caused by a malicious attack on your system, then the firewall will be incapable of identifying it. This poses to be a problem as the hardware firewall cannot detect internal malicious activities.

What is Software Firewall?

While a hardware firewall is for the overall security of the network, a software firewall is a more personal choice. This software is to be installed in individual systems and works from within the system. The primary function of a software firewall is similar to that of a hardware firewall unit. It checks through any information that is coming into your system for any kind of malicious or suspicious activity. If any incoming traffic is thought to be from suspicious sources, then such information is not allowed to pass into the system.

A software firewall is designed to be used on individual PCs. These software applications can be customized such that it can also filter the information going out of your system. Thus if your computer system is transmitting information as a result of some malicious activities, then the software firewall is easily able to identify and prevent it. However, when you are using software, it is designed to work on only one system and not protect the entire network. Thus, in an environment such as an office or a company with many computer systems, an individual software firewall needs to be installed into all the systems for complete protection.

Advantages of Software Firewall

  • Software firewalls are very economic options for homes and offices. Even the best software firewall applications out there are very affordable. These are a great option if your office has a limited number of computer systems.
  • Hardware firewall routers require some skill when they have to be configured. Software firewalls do not come with this disadvantage. In fact, they are quite easily configurable as you only have to follow a step by step installation program.
  • A software firewall is flexible with the sources from which it blocks information. You can easily determine the applications that should be granted access when you are using a software firewall.
  • Laptops are portable units and are connected over various public networks such as airports, cafes, restaurants, and so on. Possibilities of attacked on such networks are quite high but with a software firewall, you are always protected.
  • Since a software firewall works from within the system it can better keep track of the activities of your system. Thus if a malicious program has entered your system and trying to pass information out into the network, the software firewall detects such activities and prevents it!

Disadvantages of Software Firewall 

  • A software firewall is an application that is installed into the computer system. Thus it is run through the computer and hence uses up the computer’s resources. This in turn can make your computer slower or lacking in performance.
  • Since software firewalls work on the individual systems, you cannot run the same firewall application on more than one computer. Different computers require different software firewalls which in turn contributes to the increase in the overall cost. 
  • You will not be able to mask the IP address of your system using a software firewall.

Conclusion: Hardware Firewall Vs Software Firewall

There can be no clear winner between the hardware firewalls and software firewalls. Both of them are very capable of providing you with seamless protection in their own unique ways. The hardware firewall can act over a large network and protect all the systems connected to the network. However, the software firewall is capable of tracking the computer system’s activities and pick up malicious activities. 

A software firewall comes cheaper compared to a hardware firewall however both of them are economical in the environment they are used in. while software firewalls work tremendously for single computer systems, a hardware firewall can provide protection to all the systems attached to a network. The best solution would be to use a combination of both of them. The two options are loaded with unique features and each of them can be handy against different kinds of attacks. However, you should remember to keep updating the firewall installed in your system to ensure an efficient degree of protection. The computer system should also be updated regularly to aid the firewall in providing enhanced security.

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Arpit Saini

He is the Director of Cloud Operations at Serverwala Cloud Data Centers Pvt Ltd and also follows a passion to break complex tech topics into practical and easy-to-understand articles. He loves to write about Web Hosting, Software, Virtualization, Cloud Computing, and much more.

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