Communication is the essence of computer processing and is what drives us to find more efficient ways to send and receive data. The central hub of data communication is found within your network. A network is a system consisting of 2 or more platforms that share resources – like your PC and your Wi-Fi router or your computer and its servers. These networks form a secure and isolated environment to interact in – called the Local Area Network or LAN. However, trying to communicate with other networks outside of your own one or with the internet can be difficult, which is why network gateways exist.
What Is a Network Gateway?
A network gateway is used to communicate between two networks that may be using different protocol systems or languages - translating traffic from outside of your local network and allowing your network to send and receive data from other networks or the internet. Network gateways can be in the form of hardware like routers or software.
Usually found at the outskirts of a network, network gateways act alongside security protocols as well – shielding the system through firewalling, authentication capabilities, and the filtering of network traffic. They form an integral part of connecting different networks and the internet efficiently and securely.
How Does a Network Gateway Work?
To work, network gateways are required to receive, examine, translate, and forward packets of data from one source to another. Physical network gateways have Network Interface Cards (NICs), input/output ports, and software to translate network protocols. If the data from the source and destination networks use different protocols, the network gateway translates the data so the receiving network can understand it. This translation capability extends to network address translations as well. Most routers will use Network Address Translation (NAT) to create a public IP address before sending data out into the internet. This allows the receiving network to identify where it should be sending data back to as private IP addresses cannot be routed onto the internet.
Network gateways are usually found on the network level but could be put anywhere they’re required and can push data only in one direction unidirectionally or allow data to flow both in and out of the network bidirectionally.
Gateway vs. Router
In essence, both routers and gateways act as carriers for data between networks but they do have a basic difference in the way they operate. While a router can guide network traffic and data from one place to another as needed, a gateway offers more efficiency by being able to translate that data as well according to the environment it’s in. These days, most router devices already feature gateway capabilities.
Gateway vs. Firewall
As mentioned before, network gateways work alongside, and can be combined in some cases, with firewalls. This is because they share the position of operating at the boundary of the network and everything that passes through the gateway has to go through the firewall as well. While both features work well together, they are not the same.
The main objective of a firewall is to restrict access into a network for security purposes – creating a standard set of requirements for every data packet coming through. Network gateways on the other hand are much less limiting and are designed to simply allow traffic in or out as prompted.
Features and Capabilities Of a Network Gateway
The network gateway is a crucial part of your network’s operation. Some of the key features of the element include:
- Security: A network gateway is found at the boundary of the network. This makes it the perfect place to set up security systems – such as firewalls and many more layers of protection. The gateway to a network offers a platform to manage and install multiple cybersecurity measures – including cloud security systems.
- Multi-Protocol: A key feature of a network gateway is its ability to translate and communicate different protocols on different networks. This allows the gateway better flexibility and ensures that your network is protected.
- Visibility: Gateways have a unique standing at the edge of a network which gives them a wide overview of your entire network. This - combined with their protocol capabilities - allows them to monitor traffic and manage incoming and outgoing data. This feature is perfect for larger organizations with larger networks and ensures maximum efficiency and cybersecurity.
- Analytics: The network gateway can also act as a logging system for your network. Being the primary gateway for all traffic coming into and going out of the network, it can easily keep track of network traffic data and emerging patterns to assist in diagnostics, improvements, and troubleshooting. Network gateway analytics help form better cybersecurity as well and can be used to build predictive formulas to prevent future breaches.
What Do You Use a Network Gateway For?
A network gateway is primarily used to help with the transfer of data, however, that is not the only way it can be of service. As previously said, the nature of a network gateway on the boundary of a network enables it to fulfill a lot more tasks. Some of the applications of network gateways include:
- Internet of Things (IoT) Devices: The internet of Things (IoT) refers to the connected network of devices that are used and share data with one another - from your smartwatch to your smart fridge. These gadgets are all embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies that allow them to connect with one another, but also require a certain set of gateway capabilities to operate. This is where the network gateway comes in to adequately connect these devices and their corresponding gateway protocols onto a single network layer.
- Voice-Over IP (VoIP): A voice-over IP gateway allows you to make calls using your internet connection instead of a phone - WhatsApp calling is an example of this. This specific brand of network gateways converts your call traffic into transferrable digital packets to be received on the other end.
- Cloud Storage: Secure web gateways are needed to store anything on the cloud. These gateways translate storage service APIs into block-based storage protocols or file-based storage interfaces for multi-cloud applications.
- Application Access: Certain applications require specific gateways for a seamless connection and proper cybersecurity setup. To operate these, you’ll need a secure network gateway system.
- Connectivity facilitation: For most portable devices that use network interface cards, a secure network gateway is essential as well. This allows the devices to enjoy seamless connectivity and internet access.
- Wireless Access: A wireless gateway is typically a home router that uses a built-in gateway that converts data into Wi-Fi.
- Cellular Access: The type of network gateway enables faster 4G and 5G speeds for better cellular connection and helps in making cellular data compatible with the local network.
While network gateways are essential, choosing the right secure web gateway can be difficult too. Sangfor has all the best technology and cybersecurity solutions available for you and your network to ensure optimum connectivity and safety.
Sangfor’s Network Gateway Security Solutions
The Sangfor Internet Access Gateway is an incredibly effective secure web gateway that protects your company’s resources by allowing you to identify, analyze, and take immediate action upon user internet access behavior. The service allows you to discover intelligent network traffic solutions to take full control of your network from within while collaborating with Sangfor’s Endpoint Secure to enforce Proxy Avoidance Protection for effective cybersecurity.
For more information on Sangfor’s cyber security and cloud computing solutions, visit www.sangfor.com.