How to Strategically Forward Ports

Port forwarding is a useful technique to optimize network access by configuring routing rules on a network gateway device. It allows externally-initiated connections to be directed to a specific device on a private local area network (LAN).

What is Port Forwarding

Port forwarding enables inbound traffic from the internet to be mapped to a specific device on your home or office network. This is accomplished by configuring forwarding rules on your router, firewall, or other network gateway device.

Here’s how it works:

  • Your router receives an incoming connection request on a specific port. For example, a request comes in to port 3389 for Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) traffic.
  • Instead of blocking or dropping this request, your router forwards it to a designated device on your LAN, such as your desktop PC at
  • The receiving device then handles the connection as normal. From an external perspective, it appears the device is directly exposed rather than sitting behind a router with Network Address Translation (NAT).


  • Access devices and services on your LAN from the internet (e.g. remote desktop, web servers, gaming servers).
  • Reduce restrictive NAT issues that can prevent access to peer-to-peer applications.
  • Improve connection speed and reliability for bandwidth-intensive uses like gaming and streaming.

Strategic Considerations

While port forwarding can optimize network access, it also carries security risks if not managed properly. As you open ports, you potentially expose devices on your LAN to security threats from the internet.

Follow these strategic guidelines when working with port forwarding:

Only Forward What’s Necessary

  • Don’t forward random ports without good reason. Know exactly why each port needs to be open.
  • Only open the minimum set of ports required for an application to function properly.

Use Temporary Rules

  • Whenever feasible, manually enable port forwarding rules only when needed, then disable them after usage.
  • For frequently-used services, define automated schedules to open and close ports programmatically at set times.

Restrict Source IP Addresses

  • Configure firewall policies to restrict inbound traffic to only allow specified source IP addresses rather than any random host on the internet.

Place Devices in DMZ

  • For public-facing servers, consider placing the systems in a separate DMZ (demilitarized zone) network to isolate and contain threats, rather than exposing your core LAN.

Employ Additional Safeguards

  • Harden systems through OS configurations, disable unneeded services, install security patches, leverage VPNs, etc. to provide defense-in-depth.

Common Use Cases

Here are some of the most common scenarios where strategic port forwarding provides benefits:


Online gaming often requires opening inbound ports for traffic related to game lobbies, voice chat, and peer-to-peer connectivity. Forward the necessary gaming ports to your PC or gaming console.

Web Servers

To host public-facing web servers on your LAN, forward inbound web traffic from port 80 (HTTP) and/or 443 (HTTPS) to your web server.

Remote Access

Enable remote desktop protocols (RDP), virtual network computing (VNC), SSH, etc. by forwarding related ports to the target access server on your network.

VoIP Communications

Forward ports utilized for Voice over IP (VoIP) phone systems to enable communication with devices on your LAN from the internet.

Security Cameras

Many IP cameras and surveillance systems require opening ports for remote viewing and management. Forward these ports to your NVR or camera.

How to Forward Ports

The steps to set up port forwarding vary by router, but generally involve:

  1. Log in to your router admin console, usually by browsing to
  2. Identify device IP to forward to, either DHCP reservation or static IP address.
  3. Locate port forwarding settings, under Advanced, Firewall, NAT, etc.
  4. Define rules specifying inbound port(s), protocol (TCP/UDP), and destination IP.
  5. Save changes.
  6. Test access to confirm ports are open.

Repeat as needed for additional applications or services that require inbound connectivity from the internet.

Closing Recommendations

  • Enable only the minimum set of temporary port forwards required.
  • Restrict source IP addresses allowed through open ports.
  • Follow cybersecurity best practices for hardening and isolating exposed systems.

With proper precautions, strategic port forwarding enables key connectivity scenarios to optimize network access and performance.