Hardware Firewall: The Ultimate Guide

hardware firewall

Discover how to stay secure with a hardware firewall.

In this post, we’ll dive into details of how a hardware firewall works – and also how it fortifies your infrastructure against malicious intrusions.

To get the most out of this post, we recommend taking a few minutes and exploring our Firewall Glossary to familiarize yourself with the fundamental terms crucial to understanding firewall technology we’ll be using in this guide. 

What Is a Hardware Firewall?

A hardware firewall serves as a dedicated device installed between an internal network and the wider internet. Unlike software firewalls, which are programs running on individual computers or servers, hardware firewalls are standalone units designed to protect an entire network.

These physical devices scrutinize incoming and outgoing traffic, filtering data packets based on predetermined security rules.

They act as gatekeepers, monitoring and controlling traffic flow to prevent unauthorized access and potential threats from infiltrating the network. With their robust hardware-based architecture, these firewalls provide an added layer of security, crucial for businesses and organizations seeking comprehensive network protection.

How Does a Hardware Firewall Work?

Operating at the network perimeter, a hardware firewall inspects data packets as they traverse between the internal network and external sources. It employs predefined rulesets to determine which packets are permissible or should be blocked, based on parameters like IP addresses, port numbers, and protocols. 

By employing stateful packet inspection (SPI) and deep packet inspection (DPI) techniques, these firewalls analyze packet contents, identifying suspicious patterns or known threats. 

This proactive approach helps thwart various cyber-attacks, including malware, phishing attempts, and unauthorized access. Additionally, hardware firewalls can segment networks, creating zones of security and ensuring that even if one section is compromised, others remain protected, bolstering overall network resilience.

The Benefits of a Hardware Firewall

As with anything Hardware Firewalls come with both advantages and disadvantages. Here are the advantages:

  • Comprehensive Protection: Filters traffic before reaching internal systems, easing the load on individual devices.
  • Consistent Security Measures: Standalone nature ensures uniform security application across the network, minimizing management complexities.
  • Robust Performance: Capable of handling high traffic volumes without compromising network speed.
  • Customizable Security Protocols: Allows tailored security rules for specific organizational needs, offering scalability against evolving threats.

The Disadvantages of Hardware Firewalls

Here’s the downside:

  • Cost Considerations: Acquiring and maintaining dedicated hardware can be expensive, particularly for smaller businesses.
  • Specialized Expertise Needed: Configuration and management may require specialized skills, posing implementation complexities for those lacking dedicated IT resources.
  • Potential Single Point of Failure: Malfunctions or issues with the firewall could disrupt network connectivity.
  • Ongoing Maintenance Required: Regular updates and maintenance are crucial for optimal performance and security, demanding continuous attention.

What to Look for in a Hardware Firewall

It’s important to assess the following factors to ensure that the Hardware firewall you chose will cater to your network’s specific security and operational needs:

PriceConsider initial investment, ongoing maintenance costs, and any additional licensing fees for advanced features.
ProtectionAssess the level of security offered, including intrusion prevention, malware filtering, and application control.
BrandsEvaluate reputable brands known for reliability, extensive support, and regular updates for security vulnerabilities.
PortsDetermine the number and types of ports available for connecting devices, considering future scalability needs.
ThroughputMeasure the firewall’s processing speed and capacity to handle network traffic without compromising performance.
Protocol SizeCheck compatibility with various network protocols and the ability to manage traffic across different protocol layers.
ScalabilityAssess the firewall’s ability to grow alongside your network, accommodating increased traffic and additional devices.
Management ToolsLook for user-friendly interfaces, centralized management consoles, and ease of configuration for efficient control.
SupportConsider available support channels, including documentation, technical assistance, and software updates.
RedundancyEvaluate failover mechanisms, redundancy options, and high-availability features to ensure uninterrupted network access.

Software Firewall vs. Hardware Firewall

It is also important to know the difference between software and hardware firewalls.

The following comparison delineates the distinct characteristics of software and hardware firewalls, revealing their operational scope, configuration complexities, working principles, cost considerations, and more:

ParametersSoftware FirewallHardware Firewall
Operates onOperates within individual systems.Does not operate within individual systems.
ConfigurationRelatively easier configuration.Configuration complexities may exist.
WorkingInstalled on devices like computers, phones, etc. Blocks access to individual components. Inspects packets, blocks unauthorized access.Installed between the computer and the Internet. Creates a barrier, blocks incoming/outgoing packets. Protects against external threats.
CostGenerally less expensive with variations.More expensive initial investment, based on protection levels.
FlexibilityOffers flexibility in application installation.Lacks the flexibility of software firewalls.
InstallationInstalled within individual systems.Installed externally, outside individual systems.
ProtectsProtects individual systems, not all devices.Protects the entire network, including various devices.
PerformanceCan slow down the performance of computers.Does not significantly impact computer performance.
RequirementRequires installation on each system in the network.Needs only one hardware installation for the entire network.
BlockingBlocks content based on keywords.Blocks domains or websites.

Supercharge Your Firewall Security with Perimeter81

Consideration of delivery methods of a firewall — hardware, software, or cloud-based — shapes your security strategy and cost-effectiveness.

To fortify your network against threats and ensure resilient protection, choosing the right firewall is imperative. Do make sure to take the time to explore the different firewall types and delivery methods in order to effectively align your security infrastructure with your business needs. 

Still not sure what firewall type you need?

Book a Demo with Perimeter 81 and empower your network security with a dynamic firewall solution that tailors specifically to your individual business needs.


What is a good hardware firewall?
The Fortinet FortiGate 30E, Check Point NGFW 6000 Series, Cisco Firepower NGFW Firewall, and pFSense SG-2100 rank among the top contenders.
Do I need a hardware firewall for my home network?
Luckily, most individuals won’t require a firewall purchase. Free software firewalls often accompany many devices, while numerous routers come equipped with built-in firewalls and added security features. Nevertheless, for those with older routers, considering a separate hardware firewall or an upgrade could be beneficial.
Do small businesses need a hardware firewall?
Small businesses can greatly benefit from a hardware firewall as it provides robust security measures against cyber threats. They act as a crucial defense, safeguarding sensitive business data, customer information, and the overall network infrastructure.
What is the strongest type of firewall?
Determining the absolute strongest type of firewall can be subjective, as effectiveness often depends on various factors like network architecture, configuration, and the specific threats being addressed. However, Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) are among the most robust options available. They incorporate advanced features such as deep packet inspection, intrusion prevention, malware filtering, and application-level controls, offering comprehensive protection across multiple layers of the network. These capabilities make NGFWs highly adaptable and effective in combating a wide array of modern cyber threats.