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Managed firewalls are information security systems that are constantly monitored and updated by computer analysts. Like typical firewalls, they are software, hardware, or a combination of both designed to prevent unauthorized access to and from a private computer network. However, managed firewalls are usually administered by a third-party company specializing in information security. Most managed firewalls are used by businesses that have both the need and budget for the extensive protection this type of system offers.
Consumer-level firewalls are usually in the form of programs purchased at home electronics or computer supply stores and installed on a home computer. For nearly all home networks, this type of firewall offers ample protection against unwanted access. However, for businesses with multiple computers connected to the Internet around the clock, and with sensitive data such as personal or credit card information stored on their system, managed firewalls are crucial in keeping information secure. Consumer-level firewalls are simply not intended to handle the amount of traffic generated by a business with many network users or multiple locations. Large companies may have enough analysts to assign personnel to designing, installing, and maintaining managed firewalls on-site. For smaller businesses, however, the construction and maintenance of managed firewalls may have to be outsourced.
Managed firewalls maintained by third-party companies allow a business to focus on day-to-day operations without having to devote time or finances to hiring and training employees to manage the security system on the premises. They also offer the experience and expertise of trained security professionals. Once an outside company is selected, an initial consultation and security audit is performed to determine a business's needs. The managed firewalls are then built and installed. Good managed firewalls use state-of-the-art technology, such as custom processors, to ensure that the firewall offers protection above that of consumer-level software without hurting network performance.
Once the firewall is implemented into the network, off-site analysts manage all areas of firewall maintenance, including software updates and troubleshooting. If any possible security issues arise, they are addressed immediately. Around-the-clock monitoring and threat response is built into the cost of most managed firewalls.
The best managed firewalls offer rapid response to any necessary changes in security policy, attacks on the network, or reconfigurations necessitated by user changes. Vendors must also supply reports so that the firewall's performance, as well as the accompanying support, can be evaluated. Other considerations in selecting managed firewalls include information backup and hardware replacement.