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May 2003

Identifying which type of firewall is right for you

Firewalls are ubiquitous, but no size fits all. When it comes to granular security analysis, gateway-based firewalls (proxy-based) are the best, closely followed by stateful inspection, then stateful (also called dynamic) filters, with static packet filters providing the least security processing. Yet, in terms of manageability, the list is reversed: packet filters are the most "plug-and-playable"; app proxies are the least. So how can you decide which type of firewall is right for your organization? Which one strikes a good balance between security and functionality and cost and manageability? To answer this question, I'll examine three infrastructures: a small office; a medium- or large-sized office with common needs; and a large office with complex needs. Small office. Small offices obviously have fewer users and managed machines than large infrastructures. They're usually smaller targets. And they require access to minimal Internet services: e-mail (but maybe not even that, if connected to the main office over a VPN), Web ...

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