Protecting your lenses is a very big consideration in your photography. Firstly if you love photography you will have quite a lot of money outlayed on your gear and most of that outlay will be on your lenses. Many photographers make big mistakes here, they will purchase expensive lenses and then get cheap filters to put on them to protect the front element, but the cheap filters will degrade the image.
My philosophy with filters is to only use them when it will enhance the image and do not use them to protect the front element. If you want to protect the front element all I can say is that the lens hood provided with most lenses will serve two functions. Firstly it will shade the front element and help prevent any degradation of the image and loss of contrast and secondly it will offer some protection to the lens, so use the lens hood at all times.
When cleaning the lens element be very careful, use a blower brush firstly to get rid of any dirt of grit , then use a lens pen or lens solution to clean the element. Store your lenses in very dry conditions to avoid any fungus growth.