What are they and why does your business need one?
Small business networks are becoming increasingly complicated as more and more applications are delivered over the internet, ISP speeds get faster and users require constant uptime and access to their company data from anywhere. Along with faster speeds and internet usage threats also rapidly increase in volume and sophistication, it gets more difficult to protect your system and applications. With 60% of attacks in 2014 targeting small to medium-sized businesses, according to Travelers Insurance, effective security is key for every business, regardless of size.
Enter the Security Appliance, UTM, Firewall or Router, there are many common names but Security Appliance is the one we will use. Think of the SA as the heart of your network, the watch dog, the police. This device is in charge of deciding what comes in and and goes out, it prioritizes the data it does let in by set of rules called QoS or Quality of Service. For example if you are running a VOIP telephone system in your network and you have a lot of data coming in and out via DropBox, Webex, Video, Email, etc. the SA needs to prioritize the VOIP traffic above all so that your phone calls will be clear, without stutters and delays. The graphic below should help you visualize:
Next Gen Firewall is another feature that is helpful to small business by blocking very specific types of traffic by kind at layer 7. Layer 7 simply means being able to block things like Social Web & Photo Sharing or by drilling down further for example you may want to block myspace but not Facebook. This can be achieved so your network users have the tools they need to be efficient at work. See the graphic below for Cisco Meraki’s representation of their Layer 7 blocking:
Content Filtering enables the users of your network to use the Internet while remaining protected from inappropriate or harmful content, maintaining productivity and compliance with applicable business and regulatory requirements. Blocking specific types of harmful or unwanted traffic. In the example below you see that Adult Content, Gambling, Games, etc. have been blocked. Instead of having to know the exact web address of every type of Gambling website we can block based on category. These categories are synchronized with content databases that are updated daily and provide very good coverage for each category available. If there are websites that are not caught by the filter the site can be manually blocked and reported to the vendor.