As advances in networking continue to provide tremendous benefits, businesses are increasingly challenged by sophisticated attacks designed to disrupt communication, degrade performance and compromise data. Striking the perfect balance between network security and performance is no easy task. Meeting these demands can be especially daunting for small businesses, which usually cannot afford the same degree of protections as their larger counterparts.
The good news is that, with technology, higher performance and superior security are possible. By minimizing the attack surface that a business presents to the world, security can emerge as a differentiator rather than an inhibitor.
The first line of defense for any business — large or small — is an updated and properly configured firewall. In fact, if your business is still using a traditional firewall to protect against malicious threats, you may not even realize that you are woefully unprotected. Though firewalls are an essential part of network security, many (especially traditional firewalls) offer limited protection. They can monitor and block traffic based on source and destination information. But they can’t look inside packets to detect malware, identify hacker activity or help you manage what end users are doing on the internet. Even if you have purchased a firewall just a few years ago, it might not be able to inspect encrypted traffic, leaving you exposed to encrypted malware.
Securing the small business
Just because your business is small doesn’t mean you are at any less risk for a security breach than a larger business. The reality is that cyber-criminals use automated scanning programs that don’t care whether your company is big or small; they are only looking for holes in your network security to exploit.
With tight budgets and fewer resources, small businesses need to make sure their firewalls are delivering maximum protection without sacrificing productivity. To achieve this goal, IT administrators should insist on solutions that provide:
- Blazing-fast performance: Your firewall must not become a network bottleneck. If it holds up network traffic, then users complain about poor performance and slow response times. Administrators respond by easing security restrictions. The result? The business compromises its security to maintain acceptable performance. It’s a dangerous trade-off that should never happen.
- Exceptional security: Insist on a firewall that includes deep packet inspection (DPI) technology to decrypt and inspect Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) traffic into and out of the network. Unfortunately, traditional firewalls lack this capability, which means hackers and cybercriminals can smuggle malware right through the firewall just by concealing it in SSL traffic. Many say their firewalls do inspect SSL traffic but fail to tell you how this impacts performance.
- Low total cost of ownership (TCO): Security solutions that operate in silos can result in gaps and complexity that can kill efficiency and squander resources. Look for an integrated firewall that can be quickly set up and fine-tuned. Easy-to-use features, such as graphical interfaces and setup wizards, can save administration time and help reduce operation and maintenance costs.
As small business’ growing use of cloud applications, the security perimeter becomes blurred between your network and the internet so there is nothing as essential as a solution that draws the line to keep out unwanted intrusions. Your network provides access to critical applications and houses sensitive company and customer data. A single network breach can shut down your operations for days, or allow a hacker to steal vital business data. If you are not currently using or evaluating a next-generation firewall, you should be — there’s too much at stake.
Thanks to advances in firewall protection technology, achieving robust network security without sacrificing performance is possible and affordable. To read more tips on how to keep your small business network more efficient and secure, read the e-book, “Securing your small business.”