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An external firewall is a security software tool that is located on a device other than the hard drive of a computer. This type of firewall is often loaded onto network devices that are in turn connected to multiple computer work stations, such as network servers, routers, and even network switches. Using an external firewall can not only help to limit the inflow of data from outside sources but can also be helpful in controlling the type of data that flows from a workstation and outside the company network.
The concept of an external firewall is different from that of an internal firewall. Most computer systems are equipped with a firewall that is part of the software for the operating system or is a software program that is loaded by the end user onto a desktop, laptop or other Internet-capable device. Those internal firewalls are generally configured to protect the system from invasions by viruses or to function as a filter that prevents certain types of data from being received from the Internet or through email clients. An external firewall can also help with these same functions, but provides an additional level of security by working with the internal protocols to enhance the screening process. By employing both an internal and an external firewall strategy, all the connected devices plus the network itself carries a greater degree of protection.
Another benefit of the external firewall is that the security tool can also aid in preventing data from being directed out of the network. This can be especially important in terms of preventing proprietary information from being captured and distributed to unauthorized parties. In the event that a network is hacked, the external firewall may still be able to prevent certain data from being retrieved and also prevent hacked user accounts from being utilized to open, copy, and send data files that are security encrypted. For this reason, it is not unusual for companies to protect their networks with both internal firewalls on each computer and an external firewall that helps to protect the movement of data in and out of the network.
Adding an external firewall is a relatively simple task. Firewalls of this type are compatible with a number of different devices, making it easy to find several options that will work with any server, switch, or router. While most will require some adaptation to make sure the level of protection is optimum while there is no reduction in the sharing and reception of other types of data, a competent member of the Information Systems team can easily configure the firewall to best advantage.
Typically, the router firewalls lack either the ability or are too complex to set up to give effective protection/screening of outbound traffic, or at least certain types. Here's where software firewalls can shine. They can provide the ability or make it easier to protect the outbound side of things.