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What is Port Forwarding and How Can I Do it Safely?

August 12th, 2022 | 4 min. read

By Jordan Pioth

Laptop and coffee cup on a table

Do you have a firewall implemented into your network? Maybe your network is secure and your documents are protected thanks to your firewall.

This is great but if you need a client or a remote employee working at your company to have access to a document or your network then you'll have to find another way for them to access it.

Port forwarding can help with this and allow you to send out and receive data or access blocked websites while your firewall is still in play.

Without port forwarding, it can be difficult for you to grant your clients access to these documents.

Whether it be client agreements or contracts, you want to keep them safe but you also want your clients to be able to have access to these documents as well.

The idea of port forwarding is to be able to access private networks from outside. Without port forwarding, external devices cannot see internal IP addresses.

Here at Coeo, we pride ourselves on giving our audience information on all things telecommunications. Educating our future and current customers is always a goal of ours.

By the end of this article, you will know what port forwarding is, the three different types of port forwarding, and how to set up port forwarding. This article will allow you to decide if you should use port forwarding or not.

What is port forwarding?

Port forwarding, also known as port management, allows remote servers and devices on the internet to be able to access devices that are on a private network.

If you are not using port forwarding, only devices on that private internal network can have access to each other or your network.

Before we get any further, you may be asking, “What is a port?”

A port is a communication endpoint and is identified as a port number that is always associated with an IP address.

Of course, the whole reason you have security on your network is to keep outside sources from penetrating your network. If you are not able to grant access to an outside source, chances are you have good security over your network.

However, there are some times when you need to grant access to an outside source whether it be to your clients or business partners to your documents or other elements within your network. Port forwarding will help you do that.

The way that port forwarding works is you configure an internal IP address on the firewall. Then you associate that IP address with an external IP address that other devices on the Internet know how to reach.

This allows you to be seen on a private network while still being protected from outside sources.

4 ways to mitigate the security impact of port forwarding

1. Only forward ports to devices in a DMZ

Forwarding ports through a DMZ gives you an extra layer of security and protects your network from being vulnerable. A DMZ or demilitarized zone is a perimeter that protects and adds an extra layer of security to an organization’s internal network from untrusted outside traffic.

2. Only forward the specific ports that are required

Forwarding to specific ports that you need will make your network much safer. If you were to forward to lots of different ports that may not be necessary, you could be opening up your network to cyber-attacks and data breaches.

3. Restrict the IP addresses that are allowed to access the port forward.

If you aren’t restricting IP addresses, your server could be accessed by a malicious source. You can allow access to specific IP addresses so that only those IP addresses have access to your server.

If you have a vendor that requires access to a server that you manage, then you can restrict access to the port forward for that server to only the IP addresses that your vendor uses.

4. Don't port forward at all.

Instead of port forwarding, you can use services like SASE which uses secure VPN tunnels to allow authenticated and secured access to resources.

How to setup port forwarding

Port forwarding can be set up through your firewall. Pretty much any firewall is capable of doing port forwarding.

Whoever manages your firewall will determine who sets up and manages port forwarding. If you have your own firewall managed by you or your IT team then you or your IT team will have to set up port forwarding.

If you have a managed firewall outsourced by someone else, they will do the port forwarding for you.

Port forwarding can be dangerous if you don’t do it correctly so make sure you or your IT team has the knowledge to set it up. Likewise, if you have a managed firewall you want to make sure that they can safely do this process for you.

If not done correctly, you could be opening up your network to other outside entities that could lead to viruses, data breaches, and cyber-attacks. Here is a short tutorial that you can use to set up port forwarding.  

How an SD-WAN solution can help port forward safely

SD-WAN can help an organization safely port forward by making it less complicated and more secure.  An SD-WAN solution is an overlay network that will provide better security, better reliability, and connectivity. 

SD-WAN can help you configure and operate the ports during port forwarding.

In addition, an SD-WAN solution can also provide greater visibility into your network so you can evaluate the inside of your network ensuring you can port forward safely. 

With more control and visibility, you can better manage your SD-WAN solution and port forwarding.

This increased visibility and management will allow you to cater your SD-WAN and port forwarding to meet your organization’s telecom security needs.

If you would like to learn more about SD-WAN, check out our SD-WAN Buyer's Guide:SD-WAN BUYER'S GUIDE

Next steps for port forwarding

In this article, you learned about port forwarding and the different types of port forwarding. This will help you receive or send out access to clients or employees that don’t have this access but need it.

Here at Coeo, we pride ourselves on giving you all the information about anything telecommunications.

The first thing you should do after reading this article is to figure out whether or not you need port forwarding. You can start by asking yourself:

  • Do I have remote working employees who need access to my organization’s office network but can’t?

  • Do I have clients that need access to our office network or other important documents but can’t?

  • Do I feel safe enough to start port forwarding?

If you answered no to these questions then port forwarding may not be for you but if answered yes to these questions, you may want to consider trying port forwarding.

If you would like to speak with our team to talk about port forwarding or ask any questions you may have you can schedule an appointment. TALK TO AN EXPERT

Read these articles below to learn more about how these managed services will help your port forward safely:

Jordan Pioth

When he's not creating content for Coeo, Jordan loves to watch sports, hang out with friends and family, and anything sneaker-related.