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Where Managed Network Security Makes Sense
Managed security services offer robust network defenses without the headaches of in-house installation and maintenance.

By: John Shepler

A network without security is like a building without locks on the doors and windows. Sooner or later, somebody is going to catch on and help themselves to the goodies inside. In the case of networks, that's usually sooner. In the case of business networks, burglary and vandalism can quickly become disasters. Network security is clearly mandatory. But, do you implement it yourself or do you buy the service?

Individuals with home office networks and major corporations with large IT staffs will likely opt to do it themselves. The individual for affordability and the corporate IT department for control. That leaves the majority of businesses scratching their heads about how much security is enough and how to keep up with the threats from within and without.

Threats Are Both Inside and Outside
Within? Oh, yes. Employees can be the biggest problem of all. They bring in data and their personal software on flash drives, like to poke around in private files for amusement and can become quietly vindictive when they feel slighted.

The threats from without are the motley collection of hackers,crackers, spammers, phishers and virus writers. But also competitors bent on gaining an edge at your expense. If they don't belong inside, they need to be thoroughly frustrated at the gate.

A robust network security solution has many elements and layers of protection. WAN connections need to be exclusively private or made virtually private through encryption.

Role of the Firewall
The network equivalent to locks on the doors and windows is the firewall. The firewall set the rules about what types of traffic are allowed and to which machines. It examines data packets and traffic patterns to find and block attacks such as Denial of Service. The firewall also keeps outsiders from trying to sneak in through unguarded ports or from even knowing the internal architecture and devices on the LAN.

Specialized hardware or software monitors email, data transfers and Web traffic for spam, viruses, phishing expeditions, spyware installation and Trojan Horses designed to damage the system.

If network security was as straightforward as buying a piece of equipment or software package and installing it once every few years, everyone would handle their own security. But such is not the case. The problem is that the curiosity seekers and evil doers are often highly intelligent and highly motivated for monetary gain or thrill of the sport. It's a constant game of cat and mouse and you really can't afford not to stay on top of the threats. The question is do you really want to be doing this yourself?

What Managed Security Can Do
The other option is called managed security. In this case, companies that specialize in network security install VPNs and managed firewalls that they remotely monitor from a network operations center. A dedicated security team that specializes in knowing what threats are out there, when they are coming for your network and what to do to mitigate the threat provides the vigilance for a multitude of clients. They may also install limitations on your employee Internet access to prevent intrusions fromoutside or simply to clamp down on cyberloafing that lowers productivity.

In many cases the same companies that provide WAN services, such as dedicated Internet access and private lines, also offer managed security services. A bundled package of services gives you one-stop shopping and a possible cost savings over trying to piece everything together separately.

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