The SMB & Security Outsourcing

March 3, 2008

Hidden in your wiring closet is going to be a small box, possibly supplied by your Internet Service Provider, (ISP) or possibly installed by your Technical contractors or staff.

This little box is generally the most invisible part of the SMB network infrastructure. The little box I am speaking of is the firewall and routing devices that sit between your internal network and your ISP’s network. If you have a hardware based device, its job is to protect your internal office network and it takes care of passing Internet traffic into, and out of your organization.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that it is almost invisible, that little box does not get the attention that it deserves. This little guy is the first point of defense for most SMB organizations. And like general PC’s,it needs maintenance, monitoring and upgrades.

Larger organizations have dedicated staff actively monitoring various security devices, including firewalls, RADIUS servers, routers, proxy servers and secure V-LANs.

In the SMB space, we get by on hardware based routing / firewall devices, or fairly simple out of the box products such as Microsoft’s ISA server. In fact, if you have grown rapidly over the last few years, that critical little box may actually be an entry level consumer grade product. These consumer grade products can be great for SOHO (small Office, Home Office) use, but most will not have the management and security functions necessary for an organization larger than a few people.

For global 2000 sized organizations, information security professionals are still debating the relevance of outsourcing the management of network security. On the one hand, some do not want 3rd parties to have any access to the networks crown jewels, on the other, the 24×7 monitoring and work required is a burden for even large organizations.

In the SMB space, we can’t afford 24×7 monitoring staff. We can’t afford dedicating someone to ensure this little box is properly updated, that its security rules are correct, and that the log files are being checked for dangerous activity. So in our SMB space it makes sense to outsource the management, monitoring and reporting of these devices.

IF you are a business of more than a few individuals, and relying primarily on a hardware firewall and routing device, in your next budget cycle, plan to spend the money to ensure that the device is upgraded from a consumer grade, or entry level device to one with remote management and remote monitoring capability.

And second, consider outsourcing the management of this device, possibly to your your ISP, or a third party. If your ISP has this service, that could be ideal. They have 24×7 dedicated professionals and the tools to monitor all of their own devices anyways. If you are lucky, your ISP will have a monitoring service that includes a “professional grade” device and the associated monitoring and maintenance in one package.

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