Your celebrating a big milestone - 5 years ago you moved into your new offices. Your business was growing and needed new space. You ordered an Internet connection from your local Internet Service Provider (ISP) that seemed sufficient for your needs at that time. They told you to purchase a firewall/router for the new service, so you went and picked one up from your local office supply store. They all looked the same, so you picked one out that fit your budget. It was just something you were told you needed, but had really no idea why.
Today, you seem to be having some issues with viruses and spyware on your computers. The Internet connection you ordered 5 years ago doesn't seem as fast as it did, even though you have bumped up the speed. Your employees aren't as productive as they could be because they are constantly waiting for your online applications to load. The culprit could be that router/firewall that you bought 5 years ago that isn't keeping up with your office's needs today.
Your firewall/router is the entry point from the Internet to your network. It is an essential component to the security and stability of your network. Usually the firewall and router are one unit. Using the analogy of your computer network being your home, the router is like your front door. It allows the people you want in and allows you to leave your home. The firewall is the security system. It could just be a single door handle, a dead bolt or a complicated security system with alarms, cameras and alerting mechanisms. It is also important to realize that the Internet is like living in the worst neighborhood in the city, with criminals constantly trying to enter your home. It is essential to make sure you have the best security available to protect yourself.
Internet Speed vs. Router Speed
You are a speed demon. Your slow car is a Corvette and you enjoy taking your F-16 out on the weekends for a quick bite to eat in Texas. You order the fastest Internet speed your service provider offers, but never seem to get the speeds they sold you on your speed tests. The bottleneck could be your router. Many routers advertise that they are Gigabit Routers, but are they really? Just because they have gigabit ports on them does not mean they can transmit that much data. It's like having the 600 horsepower engine in your Corvette, but only having 1st gear on your transmission. You aren't going to go faster than 30 MPH.
Look at the speed ratings from some common routers below:
Notice that the TZ 105 is only capable of 25 Mbps of Full DPI throughput. Even though this router has Gigabit network ports, the top speed it can reach of full protection is 25 Mbps. If you ordered a 100 Mbps Internet connection, you are only getting half your speeds.
Just like having a door on your house to keep criminals out, it isn't going to protect you from ones that know how to turn the knob. Today, it is important to have much more than just a basic door and lock, businesses should invest in active intrusion prevention systems on their firewalls. These systems analyze all the data coming into and out of your network. They check the data for viruses, spyware, hacking attempts, corrupt and malicious website traffic, and much more. The best place to catch this bad traffic is at the edge of your network, rather than allowing it to get to your computers. This is part of a multi-layer security approach that protects your network in as many places possible. You generally must pay an annual subscription for these service, much like Anti-Virus software. It is worth every cent you pay for it.
Ever wanted to stop employees from using streaming music, going to online dating websites, job boards, or pornographic websites? One of the best ways to accomplish this is through content filtering. The router can check website traffic, and disallow the content you do not want. It can also block everything and allow only what you want. This is very useful if you have some uncontrolled portions of your network that are difficult for you to monitor through other practices, such as HR.
As with any device, your router is running software that can have bugs or security vulnerabilities in it. There was a large bug found in Linksys and other routers at the beginning of 2014. You need to have your IT professional check that you are running the most current version of firmware on your router, just like you do updates on your operating system of your computer. If your router is more than 3 years old, the manufacturer may not be releasing security updates. We recommend replacing your router/firewall every 3-5 years to make sure you are safe.
Even though your router/firewall is sitting in a closet somewhere and you don't think about it, you are using it every second of the day. It is an essential component in the security of your network and can be a great asset in protecting and enhancing your network environment.