The technology that enables our businesses evolves so often that it is seemingly obsolete just when you think you have it deployed and operating properly. But keeping your technology current and taking advantage of innovations and advances, especially as an SMB, is a “must have” to remain competitive in a digital age. With all this new technology promising immediate and dramatic results, one aspect that can easily be overlooked is keeping the core network current and secure.
The main components of most SMB core networks are internet service provider (ISP) routers/modems, firewalls, switches and hubs, Wi-Fi, and of course, the devices that power your business. Keeping these core elements up-to-date, secure and interacting effectively is a difficult task, especially for a small business with limited IT resources. However, failing to do so can have a big impact on your business’s productivity, efficiency and overall success.
Internet providers currently offer very high-speed connections at very reasonable rates. Having a high-speed connection makes everything work better, allowing you to have your internal network, Wi-Fi, productivity applications, support systems, security systems and more all running as advertised. However, that great connection speed won’t be worth the price paid if your network equipment, including any firewalls, switches, routers or wireless access points, is not up-to-date, configured properly and maintained and monitored.
Just when you thought that was hard enough, let’s add in security concerns. Most are aware of the continual rise in hacking over the past few years; what few realize is that most hacking is targeted at small businesses, more than 80 percent by many estimates. That means that yes, even as a small business owner, you need to worry about your data and network being secure. And it’s not as simple as turning on the firewall that your ISP said was included in your modem— although that would be a good start.
That network address translation (NAT) firewall, if enabled and configured properly (a big “if”), will only provide the most rudimentary protection and can only stop some intrusions from outside your network. You still need to worry about securing your internal network and your public Wi-Fi. And what about that port you just opened for your remote desktop software, or the one for your remotely viewable security system? Yes, NAT firewalls provide some protection, but nowhere near what you need to ensure your business and intellectual property are properly safeguarded.
Unless you have the most basic of networks (and if you’re reading this, you probably don’t), the best way to accomplish securing your network properly is to use a capable enterprise-grade firewall device. Once installed, it is essential to be certain that it secures your inbound traffic along with any remote access ports and public Wi-Fi.
The right firewall device will also facilitate the proper segmentation of your network traffic. By breaking up your network into segments along the lines of external Internet traffic, internal employee network traffic, public Wi-Fi, remotely viewable security, IP-based telecommunications traffic, etc., you reduce the entry points and limit the exposure of your network. Breaking your network into segments will ensure that a customer on your wireless network has no chance to peruse your operating or financial data.
Often overlooked in security strategies is the importance of also making sure your outbound traffic is as secure as your inbound traffic; meaning don’t let your network send data to North Korea or Iran if you aren’t regularly doing business with North Korea or Iran.
Finally, it’s critically important to make sure that all of your devices have anti-virus and malware software installed, that the definitions are up-to- date and that any operating system security patches are installed.
Nobody said keeping up with technology is easy or cheap, and the more pieces you add, the more requirements you put on your network management. The good part is that the rapid pace of technological development has given rise to a new breed of outsourced solution providers. Current solution providers pride themselves on minimally invasive solutions, rapid response times, state-of-the-art technology and cost effective delivery.
Everything from software to help automate your business to hardware to help manage and secure your network can be sourced from third-party solutions providers who specialize in one or more aspects of your technology, so you don’t have to. The economies of scale, expertise, and remote nature of delivery can make using these solution providers a much more effective and economical approach than trying to go it alone.
Netsurion is a leading provider of remotely managed network security and wireless solutions. Its enterprise class firewalls and wireless access points scale to accommodate the specific needs of its customers, whether they are multi-unit businesses or small single unit businesses, allowing the company to provide the best network security available, remotely installed and managed.
by Kevin Watson, CEO, Netsurion
BIO: Kevin Watson joined Netsurion as CEO in November 2014, bringing considerable experience in data security, managed technology services and high-growth technology companies. Netsurion provides cloud-managed firewall solutions to protect the data of small and medium-sized businesses and has been a leader in the field for more than seven years. From 1998-2014, Kevin was co-founder and managing director of C/max Capital where he led the firm’s investments in About.com (taken public then sold to Primedia), Adjoined Consulting (sold to Kanbay), Verid (sold to EMC), Concordia (sold to Kadmon) and KMC Software. Kevin received a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Cornell University.