We all have heard the expression “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,” but what the heck could that possibly have to do with computers? Well, by definition a fence is “a barrier enclosing or bordering a piece of property, used to prevent entrance.” In the context of your network a “fence” sounds an awful lot like a firewall.

We don’t think enough people worry about or even understand their network firewall—that lonely device, diligently standing guard at the perimeter of your network, keeping out the bad eggs of the cyber landscape. As a matter of fact, not all companies are even using a proper firewall. This always concerns us. That Internet router you received for free with your cable Internet or that you picked up at the local electronics chain store likely is falling short of being a proper fence for your well maintained network garden.

A proper firewall takes my garden fence analogy to quite an extreme. In reality the Internet router you bought at the local office supply does function as a fence and does keep the baddies out…to an extent. So, if a regular old router functions as a fence, what does a firewall do for you? Imagine for a moment if your simple little garden fence was monitored by airport TSA agents. Now we’re talking! Everyone that tries to get into your garden is stopped, searched, questioned and identified before they are allowed in. That is exactly what a firewall is doing…inspecting every single packet that comes through it.

Firewalls often provide additional functionality as well. Most can scan for viruses in downloads and email. Some will provide content filtering and monitoring to help you take control of the web browsing happening on your network. Or even provide virtual private network (VPN) access for your remote workforce. So, now we have a little garden fence, manned by TSA agents, with keycard access, video monitors, voice recognition and lasers. That’s some fence!

We can’t forget about mending our fence either. All firewalls are regularly updated. New firmware is an essential part of maintaining your firewall. As new threats are discovered firewall makers release updates for their products to protect you from those threats. Think of it as ongoing training for those TSA agents you have working on that fence.

When it comes to protecting your garden, why settle for just a simple garden fence. Don’t your vegetables deserve to be protected by super cool lasers?

First published in our June 2015 IT Radix Resource newsletter