How to Keep Your Network Secure

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by Frank J. Ohlhorst

When it comes to network security, all businesses share a common goal: protecting data against theft, damage, and compromise. Big businesses tend to have larger budgets and access to a lot more options than SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses). Still, if you’re looking for a security product for a small business network, finding one that meets your needs is quite possible, as we’ll see below.

Businesses of all sizes have sensitive data on their computers which must be protected. However, larger organizations and smaller organizations take different approaches to security. On large enterprise-level networks, a multitude of security appliances, firewalls, intrusion protection systems and other security technologies work in conjunction with each other to safeguard the various systems in use.

In contrast, small companies usually aren’t budgeted for those security luxuries. Historically, they’ve been forced to deal with security by running software products on the various endpoints connected to the network.

That situation gave birth to the desktop security suite, a software-only product typically installed on each and every PC within an organization. The early security suites, though, were cumbersome. They negatively impacted performance and often did not stop the latest threats.

What’s more, most lacked centralized management capabilities, creating situations where different PCs had different levels of protection. This, in turn, could allow a single PC to compromise a whole network.

Fortunately, software suites have gotten better over time. Most of the suites on the market today combine endpoint security software elements such as antivirus, antispyware, firewall protection…The list goes on. Still, while these suites may be adequate for home offices, small businesses need more defenses to be truly effective at securing their computers, servers, and attached devices.

These days, vendors such as Kaspersky and Symantec are now moving beyond conventional security suites into the arena of full-featured protection suites for small businesses.

How To Choose a Security Product

Selecting a product which protects a small business network and its attached endpoints is no easy task. However, vetting the candidates can be made much simpler by knowing what to look for in a product and how that product works in the real world.

Starting with the basics, endpoint protection software can safeguard your company’s data assets in three ways: by securing online communications, securing communications between your PCs and devices, and limiting intentional and unintentional violations of company privacy policies.

As foundational concepts, these elements of endpoint protection can give rise to a vast array of capabilities, each designed to combat a specific threat and to work in conjunction with other capabiities to address blended threats (or threats combining multiple types of attacks).

Even beyond endpoint protection, however, security for a small business network must also include the ability to manage user profiles, application files, Web usage, and much more. This is critical for managing productivity while maintaining privacy.

Of course, full-featured protection for small businesses should also include protection for PCs, Macs, servers and mobile devices as well as for remote users, guest users, and BYOD (bring your own device) situations.

Products Alone Are Not Enough

Still, there is no silver bullet or single product which will prevent all security exploits. To reduce the risk of a successful cyber-attack, a business of any size must take other measures, too. Here are four key steps to take:

Assess the risk. It is vital for organizations to identify and classify confidential information. Businesses must know where sensitive information resides, who has access to it, and how it is entering or leaving the organization. You should also continually assess their network and endpoints to identify possible vulnerabilities.

Minimize the risk. Develop and implement a multi-layer protection strategy to minimize the risk of exploited endpoints. In addition to traditional antivirus, firewall, and host intrusion protection technology, organizations should deploy the latest innovations in endpoint security, such as reputation-based security and real-time behavioral monitoring. These newer technologies provide additional efficacy in the battle to thwart many new attacks. Also, make certain to patch applications and systems regularly.

Educate employees. Train employees on the risks and what they need to do for safe computing. Then, hold them accountable.

Be prepared. Prepare for the worst by creating a full incident response plan. It’s also vital to occasionally practice implementing the plan. You might think of this as a fire drill, of sorts. Practicing the implementation of your incident response plan will help ensure a quicker and more complete response if the time comes to put your plan into action.

Conclusion

Although security products alone are not enough, the selection of a product that best meets your needs is essential to protecting your small business network. In a future article in this series, we’ll evaluate and compare two market leaders in the emerging category of small business security suites: Kaspersky Business Space Security (BSS) and Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP) Small Business Edition.

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