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Hardware-Based Personal Firewalls

As the product designation is meant to indicate, hardware-based firewalls come in the form of separate, standalone hardware devices. In addition to offering all the features mentioned for software-only firewalls in the preceding section, they routinely offer some or all of the following features:

  • Automated IP address assignment and management from a built-in Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server.
  • Port Address Translation (PAT) services, in addition to Network Address Translation (NAT) services.
  • 4 or more 10BaseT, 10/100BaseT, or 100BaseT ports (so the box can act as a combination firewall and network hub).

Most higher-end, hardware-based firewalls — those that cost $300 and up — also include built-in support for Virtual Private Networking (VPN), Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), content filters, anti-virus protection, and more. There are lots of vendors in this arena, but some of the best-regarded products include the following:

  • SMC Barricade ($180 MSRP)
  • NetGear FR314 ($349 MSRP)
  • SonicWall SOHO2 ($495 MSRP)
  • LinkSys 4-Port ($240 MSRP)

For several of these products, rebates of $100 or more are currently available; the SonicWall SOHO2 gets the highest marks overall (as you'd expect for the most expensive item on the list).

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