6 Differences Between Firewall & Gateway

A gateway can be referred to as a simple device or a piece of networking hardware that joins two different networks or network nodes together.

A Firewall, on the other hand, is a security system that protects the network by determining which particular data packets are not harmful and will be allowed to pass through this ‘wall’ and enter into the network.

There are more than these basics to differentiate a gateway and a Firewall. Read this article to know about them.


  • A Firewall examines and filters data packets based on a set of predefined rules and allows them through.
  • A gateway is actually a conduit that links two networks through which these data packets flow.
  • A gateway is typically a hardware device but a Firewall can be either hardware or software.

The 6 Differences Between Firewall and Gateway

Differences Between Firewall and Gateway

1. Types

The different types of Firewalls are packet filtering Firewalls, circuit-level Firewalls, stateful inspection Firewalls, application-level Firewalls and next generation Firewalls.

On the other hand, the gateways can be divided into two broad categories such as unidirectional gateways and bidirectional gateways.

2. Functions

A Firewall typically inspects for harmful packets and only allows those to pass through it that will not harm the network.

Therefore, it is a barrier or the caretaker to a network that protects it from spam traffic bots and internet hacking.

On the other hand, the main function of the gateways is to facilitate transferring the data packets from one network to another.

3. The Cost Factor

The cost related to Firewall is quite complex and higher in comparison to the cost of a gateway.

In addition to the cost of setting it up, there are also a few hidden costs associated with the Firewall such as interface nodes and WSUS or Windows Server Update Services servers.

On the other hand, the cost associated with the gateways is comparatively low because it is usually one-time which includes the hardware setup and configuration of a few software components.

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4. Working Principle

The Firewall typically analyzes the incoming traffic based on the predetermined set of rules by sitting at the boundary of the network and at the entry points called ports where information is exchanged between the devices.

On the other hand, the gateways usually work at Layer 4 or higher in the Open Systems Interconnection or OSI Model.

The gateway will usually translate the protocols so that the terminals of the two different networks are allowed to communicate with each other.

5. Benefits

The different benefits of using a Firewall are network protection from outside threats, customization of security protocols, blocking or unblocking harmful or safe traffic, better traffic monitoring and management, better access control, and more privacy due to blocking the DNS or Domain Name System so that the malicious users cannot see the IP address or the name of the network.

On the other hand, the benefits of using a gateway include lower cost, reduced complexity, useful and rich user interface, easy logging of the incoming traffic, and better connectivity between different computer systems.

It also offers higher security with multiple layers of protection, regulated broadcast domain and collision. The protocol conversion feature allows the data format to match the necessities of the destination architecture.

6. Drawbacks

There are some drawbacks of using a Firewall such as higher cost and stricter access policies that may result in user restrictions and use of backdoors to workaround which may result in security issues.

The performance of the system will be reduced especially by the software firewalls which run in the background all the time and consume Random Access Memory or RAM and processing power both.

And, you will need anti-malware software because Firewalls typically become ineffective if there is a malware attack.

On the other hand, the downsides of using a gateway are time consuming and challenging implementation and configuration since they usually come pre-configured and time delays due to necessary information translation and returning any cache information that is not cleaned correctly.

It may also result in a communication breakdown due to connection failure and troubleshooting requirements for every computer in a network that follows a different protocol.

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Which is More Important  – Firewall or Gateway?

Ideally, both gateways and Firewalls are important.

In general, both of them can be used in internet and intranet or Local Area Networks, especially when the gateways are the specific types of network devices such as switches and routers.

In such situations, the gateway will meet your demand for connecting two separate networks with different protocols and the Firewall will provide the ideal solution to keep your network protected from malware and virus attacks and hacks.

Therefore, both these security mechanisms are very important for the security architecture of an organization which is why you can expect to see a lot of development in the functionalities, capabilities and technologies of gateways and Firewalls in the next couple of years.

Also, it is for their functionalities that you will find today most of the devices have both a Firewall and a gateway present in them.

Of course, the types and versions may vary greatly.

However, a gateway and a Firewall have different architecture and protocols to follow.

Therefore, the gateway cannot be used to protect the network at the same level as a Firewall.

Since it can be applied either as hardware, software, or both, the safety lever is always high in the case of the Firewall.

Depending on their different functions performed, a gateway can be categorized into three main groups specifically such as:

  • Application gateway – This allows connecting two separate application at the application layer which helps in protocol translation for the particular application
  • Protocol gateway – This is used to convert different protocols that are used by the two different networks and
  • Security gateway – This enforces security policies of the company to protect against online security threats and filtering harmful internet traffic in real time.

There are also a few multi-service gateways available in the market.

These gateways come with high performance multi-core architecture and can perform as stateful Firewalls, network traffic control and VPN gateway.

These gateways are most suitable for small and medium sized networks.

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The Firewalls typically perform three main security functions for the network. These are:

  • Packet filtering – Here the Firewall operates at the packet level to inspect the data packets incoming or leaving the network based on the user-defined rules and allows or blocks a packet
  • Stateful filtering – Here the Firewall checks the headers and a lot of other elements of each data packet, compares them with reliable information from a database, analyzes them into layers, and records the port number and IP address and
  • Application proxy – Here the Firewall stops information from trying to break into the system by working at the application level between the internal and external network.

In order to make the security more effective, a Firewall must be placed at the boundary so that it can actually see the packets entering or leaving the network and block or divert them to the gateway or to the system of the end user according to its judgment.

Since network security is one of the most crucial aspects to consider today while doing business over the internet by using LAN or any other methods, you should always use the best security mechanisms in combination.

No matter how small or big your organization is, both gateways and Firewalls will be the most effective solutions to address the potential security issues and threats on your network in a timely fashion.

This will offer you a better and safer user experience and profits.


So, now you know after reading this article that both gateways and Firewalls are different in design and working principles but both are useful to ensure complete security to your network.

This knowledge will surely help you to make a choice between them or use both, which is highly recommended.

About Puja Chatterjee

Puja ChatterjeePuja Chatterjee is a technical writer with extensive knowledge about computers. She graduated from BIMS. Her expertise includes technology writing and client relationship management gained through over 12 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin.