In today's interconnected and knowledge-based economy, your business's survival depends on how quickly and securely you can respond to customer needs. Until recently, only large enterprises with hefty budgets could afford customer relationship management (CRM) solutions needed to manage the entire customer experience from first contact onward. Today, there are many CRM solutions designed specifically for the budgets and needs of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Network security is like the proverbial chain. It's only as strong as its weakest link. Your network is most secure when:
- All policies, procedures, software and devices work together to provide a secure and adaptive system.
- Threats are contained at every entry point of entry.
- The network can automatically adapt to new and changing threats.
Because you don't want a piecemeal approach, it helps to work with trusted vendors who can provide end-to-end security from the network foundation to the remotest laptop accessing your customer data. It's also important to work with a consultant who understands the right balance between security and usability.
"Creating a security solution is a lot like picking items from a menu, it all depends on your company's needs," says Craig Martin, a security solutions architect for Sentinel Technologies, Inc., a Cisco Certified Security Partner in Downers Grove, Illinois.
A consultant will begin by working with you to review your company's needs, plans, vulnerabilities, and mission-critical assets and applications. Once the review is complete, your security partner will present a security game plan customized for your company.
Firewall: The Essential Protector
The one security item every company needs is a firewall, a security appliance that attaches to your network and acts as the protective shield between the outside world and your wired and/or wireless network. A firewall continuously inspects traffic and matches it against a set of predesigned rules. If the traffic qualifies as safe, it's allowed onto your network. If the traffic is questionable, the firewall blocks it and stops an attack before it enters your network.
Safe E-Mailing and Internet Browsing
If your employees send e-mails and browse the Internet (and what employees don't?), you should consider a comprehensive security solution that includes e-mail security, Web gateway security, and URL filtering. With these security technologies you can...
- Vigilantly monitor the content of your inbound and outbound company e-mails and monitor visited Web sites to make sure no viruses, spyware, malware, or other malicious threats can infect your network.
- Update automatically, several times a day, even without slowing down the system or requiring human intervention.
- Avoid interrupting your workers. These technologies are largely invisible to employees, so they can enjoy security benefits without the hassle of security management.
- Prevent employees from visiting sites with illegal or offensive content. This helps keep your workers productive and reduces the risks of human resources problems that can occur when employees are unvoluntarily subjected to sexist, racist, or other objectionable material in the workplace.
Other Solutions to Consider
What other security solutions do you need? Depends on what you're doing:
- Connecting partner and branch offices: If you have many locations that will connect to your central network, your partner might recommend a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN securely and inexpensively uses the public Internet, instead of privately owned or leased lines, to provide remote offices and individuals with secure access to your organization's network.
- Computing at home and on the road. Are your employees using laptops from home or on the road? VPN makes sure that every computer that connects to your network -- from any location - is secure.
- Protecting customer data. The last thing you want is unauthorized people obtaining sensitive customer information. Data security software enforces policies that dictate how customer information is used, copied, and accessed.
"All these solutions are easily integrated with most existing networks, they can be rolled out in phases, and they can be up in running in a matter of days," says Martin. "And once they're installed, they are easy to maintain and administer."
Small and medium-sized businesses are affected by security issues, just like enterprise customers, but they have fewer resources to manage security by themselves - all the more reason to work with a trusted security partner.
Managing risk effectively also entails informing employees about where and how potential security threats originate and teaching them how to respond. And it involves putting mechanisms in place to keep the lines of communication open inside and outside the organization during a potentially disruptive occurrence.
Small Business Security: The Basics
Network Security for Small Business: Things to Consider