By Mike Buckley | Pre-Sales Consultant at Nettitude
In today’s busy environment, it’s becoming very rare for an organisations IT support team to be well resourced, with plenty of time on their hands. Having worked closely with our client’s IT Teams, one of the most frequent issues we hear about which poses a risk to an organisation’s cybersecurity is not having enough time. With cyber-threats constantly evolving, it is essential for IT teams to have time to attend training courses and gain experience on everything they are expected to support.
IT Support teams don’t have an easy job; they have to contend with a multitude of issues across a multitude of different technologies, all the while trying to appease their user base. Alongside other technologies that require in depth specialist knowledge, networks can be a particular challenge for IT teams.
In the following blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most challenging issues that IT support teams in SME’s face, analyse the importance of making time for essential training and professional development, and examine the role of network security consulting.
Neglecting Network Security
Networks are business critical but often neglected. Sometimes when we scope a network refresh we unearth a whole host of problems. Some of these issues can include -
- Out of support hardware
- Maintenance subscriptions expired
- Rats nest cabling
- Configuration and performance issues
- Overly permissive security rules
This may look extreme but we have been in “server rooms” where cables traverse cabinets at foot, knee, waist and even head height. Let’s face it, not only is this a health and safety issue waiting to happen, nobody needs an assault course to complete when working on critical devices.
All of these issues and more place unnecessary risk on the network and connected infrastructure. Networks should be built and maintained to provide availability, performance and scalability. Small IT Teams have enough to do at the best of times, never mind the added pressure of looking after their users who are working from home where possible.
The importance of having a Network Security Specialist
One of the most common issues that Nettitude come across is the lack of understanding around the importance of having specialists within an IT team. In many SME’s, having and IT team is seen as a luxury which the organisation can afford to go without. In these cases, there is often only one or two IT managers for the whole organisation. Whilst these individuals are specialists within their industry, it is necessary to retain specialists who focus on particular areas of IT and cybersecurity – as one size fits all does not work in this case. The general attitude here can be “if it works why fix it?” and this definitely holds true for network security,
The reality is that these risks will eventually cause some form of downtime or outage to services, and without network skills in-house, it will mean a call to an external support team or even worse - if the device is out of support, a wait until replacement hardware is procured. In the meantime, this could be the difference between a small hardware issue and a major security breach that ends up costing thousands of pounds or dollars’ worth of damage.
How in-house specialist Network Security Services are implemented
Network skills are a specialist skill. Whilst there are some vendors that have user-friendly cloud portals where it is fairly trivial to add plans, configure ports etc., beneath that lies support for dynamic routing protocols, high availability, 802.1x, rapid spanning tree, LACP, BDPU Guard and a whole plethora of options, and that’s on the SMB side. Enterprise switches that can move into the layer 3 space have a whole other capability. The reality is that your average IT desktop and server support team member can only scratch the surface, and if there are no specialist skills in-house, then they must be outsourced.
The advantages of bringing in specialist skills include:
- No requirement for costly training in house for little used skills
- Certified professionals, specialists in the area
- Independent verification of network status
- Work completed using best practices
- Reduction in risk
How can Nettitude help?
Bringing in resource that are highly certified and who are used to performing these sorts of tasks on a day-in, day-out basis cannot be underestimated. As Security Specialists, we see constant churn of projects to fix, refresh, upgrade and review networks. Nettitude are able to empower your IT support teams to maintain their current knowledge, as well as working with vendors to view and be trained on new products. It is not practical for a SMB IT team to be able to maintain this level of knowledge without impacting some other area of the team. Therefore, we recommend that you let the IT Team get on with supporting their users and other infrastructure and employ a dedicated individual to manage your Network Security.
For many SME’s, this generally isn’t practical though as the amount of time that this specialist is needed is not marched by the investment the company must make to add someone to their team. Therefore, it can often be advantageous to bring in outside help on a contract basis. By being able to scale up or scale down depending on the needs of your organisation, this can often be the most effective option for productivity, security and budget.
Changes in traditional Network Security Infrastructure
Moving outside what would traditionally be routers and switches in an on-premise world of data centres and corporate offices, like the rest of IT, the network now has to be considered outside of the immediate environment. Organisations should be considering the following questions –
- What’s the most efficient and secure way of connecting the data centre to the Cloud?
- What does that entail?
- What happens if the link fails?
- What’s the most efficient and secure way of connecting all of the branch offices?
- What about the users?
- How do they connect to on-premise and Cloud environments, can you control user access?
Network technology is moving forward, in which branch devices can now run SD-WAN on board, creating opportunities for cost savings in office connectivity. In addition, in terms of Cloud usage, there are lots of options around how to configure “network” connectivity in Cloud environments, including Network Security Groups and Network Access Control Lists.
IT now lives in a perimeter free world and that fading of the perimeter has implications for an organisations network, as well as the IT tools connected to it.
The specialist skills that today’s complex networks’ demand places too much stress on small IT teams. However, when looking into the solution of hiring a Network Security Specialist, the resources required to maintain these skills or even recruit them in the first place does not justify the relatively few times they will be used. Therefore, it makes more sense commercially, as well as technically, to bring in outside skills as required. Such network security consulting services may include an annual health check or on a project basis to review or refresh the network to meet changing demand. At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for a certified and experienced skillset.
For more information on outsourcing specialist Network Security Services, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your local team, or head over to our Security and Risk Consulting section to continue learning about the services Nettitude can offer.