As a small-business owner, you’ve undoubtedly heard the statistics about your risk for a data breach. You know that you are a target for hackers, and you’ve done everything you can to keep your data safe.
However, even if you have done everything right — established a firewall, installed antivirus and intrusion protection on your network, added encryption, set up backups, implemented strong password management and authentication policies, etc. — your network might not be as secure as you think it is. Unless you are using business-grade products to secure your network, you might be only partially protected.
Business vs. Consumer Grade Products
Setting up a business network can often be a major expense for a small business that’s just starting out. When money is tight, many entrepreneurs head down to their local electronics or office supply company and buy computers and network components that fit their budget. While these machines are perfectly adequate for home use, when it comes to running your business, they aren’t powerful enough, especially when it comes to security.
This is especially true when we’re talking about firewalls. All computers and routers come with some degree of firewall protection, designed to regulate the traffic coming in to the network. However, these firewalls have some very substantial limitations that make them inappropriate for business use.
- Consumer Firewalls Have Limited Function. The typical consumer grade firewall is designed to scan network traffic for specific, pre-defined threats. They don’t generally scan all traffic as it comes through, meaning it’s possible for these firewalls to miss threats that don’t fit the prescribed definitions. Given that attacks on businesses tend to be more sophisticated than attacks on consumers — i.e., more targeted — it’s important to have a firewall that is also more sophisticated. Even the most basic business-grade firewalls offer constant scanning, adding an extra layer of protection to your company.
- Consumer Firewalls Offer Little Insight. Business-grade firewalls offer a deeper level of analytics and reporting than consumer grade.
Most home users don’t have any need to analyze the traffic on their home network, or determine which apps are using the most bandwidth and when. When you are trying to maximize productivity and maintain a budget, though, having those insights can be helpful; in other words, you’ll know when your employees are watching Netflix at work when they should be working. Reporting also helps you investigate if things should go wrong, as you can identify when an attack started and where it came from.
- Consumer Firewalls Are More Easily Hacked. A common problem with consumer routers and firewalls is that they can easily be breached by someone with only a rudimentary understanding of networking. Most consumers use routers by one of several manufacturers, and hackers can easily look up router default settings and access a home network. It doesn’t help that most consumers don’t change the default username and password settings on their devices either. Business-grade firewalls are less vulnerable to this problem, as they are customized to the business.
- Consumer Firewalls Don’t Offer as Much Support. If the NetGear or Linksys router you are using for your business goes down, you are probably going to be on your own to get it back online. When you have a business firewall, though, you get business-grade service. Using a UTM firewall for example, gives you access to continuous monitoring and protection, as well as full support if and when you need it. In fact, many business firewalls will automatically notify your IT services provider of a problem before you even notice it, ensuring that issues are addressed and corrected as quickly as possible. Using a business-grade firewall will ensure that your business is as protected as possible, and that you aren’t left having to spend time figuring out technical issues on your own.
Using a business-grade firewall is especially important if you operate a business that collects data covered by certain privacy regulations, such as HIPAA. If you have consumer financial or health information on your network and you’re the victim of a breach, you could face significant fines and sanctions if you did not have adequate protection. Therefore, to ensure that your data is as secure as possible and to protect your business, invest in business-grade equipment, and leave the consumer stuff in the family room.