03 Apr 2013

Tips on maintaining your network security

Maintaining network security can be difficult, costly and resource-heavy, especially for mid-sized businesses. How can you simplify the process without sacrificing either your security or your budget?

Recognise your strengths

If you’ve got security experts on-staff who are capable of carrying out pro-active 24-hour security monitoring of your data networks, and the tools to detect and mitigate the next generation of security threats, you should manage the bulk of your security needs in-house – there is no point having this rare capability and not using it. If the strengths of your staff are more geared towards innovation, software development or general network maintenance, there’s a good argument for outsourcing most of your security needs to specialists.

Specify your needs

When you’re working with a managed security services provider, make sure there’s a clear, thorough and honest discussion about your security needs. If you’re simply looking to monitor the security of an internal network in order to identify and eliminate breaches within your own intranet, on-site monitoring using a security expert provided by a third party could be your best option. If you’ve got hosted applications, or you need to protect sensitive user data from public internet intrusions, it is worth considering a hosted solution within a secure data centre provided by a managed-services company that employs more pro-active around-the-clock monitoring – and possibly even periodic penetration-testing to ensure airtight security. Make sure you’ve got a written contract specifying your service-level agreement (SLA) and exactly what it entails before you proceed with any security solution.

Consider the cost

Security needs evolve as quickly as security threats, and this is a fast-moving area. Keeping staff trained in methods to counter the security threats, commissioning pen-tests and proactively monitoring the security of your networks can be a budget-draining process, especially when you consider the CAPEX required to keep your security tools up-to-date. Consider also the direct financial loss in online trading if your websites and internet facing systems were taken down by something like a Denial of Service attack. Engaging managed security services is often the only economically viable solution for SMBs, since it allows access to the latest detection and mitigation tools and operational expertise at a fraction of the cost that would be required to do this internally. It also frees your budget and staff to concentrate your core business, while providing peace-of-mind around network security.

Monitor non-destructive threats

For most businesses, data-loss can be far more damaging than downtime. If you’re not monitoring for network intrusions that leave no obvious trace then your commercially sensitive data, or user data, could be stolen without your staff even noticing. Make sure your security service provider (or staff) are actively monitoring network traffic to protect against targeted attacks that aim to harvest valuable information without leaving a trace of their presence.