What You Need to Know about Network Security

What You Need to Know about Network Security

What Is Network Security?
How Businesses Use Security Technologies
Getting Started with Network Security
Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Partner

What Is Network Security?

Chances are, when you leave the office at the end of the day you turn on the alarm system and lock the door to protect your office and its equipment. It is also likely that you have a safe or locking file cabinet for storing confidential business documents.

Your computer network requires the same kind of protection.

Network security technologies protect your network against the theft and misuse of confidential business information and guards against malicious attacks from Internet-borne viruses and worms. Without network security in place your company risks unauthorized intrusions, network downtime, service disruption, regulatory noncompliance and even legal action.

How security works

Network security does not rely on one method, but uses a set of barriers that defend your business in different ways. Even if one solution fails, others still stand, guarding your company and its data from a wide variety of network attacks.

Layers of security on your network mean that the valuable information you rely on to conduct business is available to you and protected from threats. Specifically, network security:

  • Protects against internal and external network attacks. Threats can originate both inside and outside the four walls of your business. An effective security system monitors all network activity, flags aberrant behavior and makes the appropriate response.
  • Ensures privacy of all communications, at any place at any time. Employees can access the network from home or on the road with the assurance their communications remain private and protected.
  • Controls access to information by accurately identifying users and their systems. Businesses can set their own rules around data access. Denial or approval can be granted based on user identities, job function or other business-specific criteria.
  • Makes you more reliable. Since security technologies let your system prevent known attacks and adapt to new threats, employees, customers and business partners can be confident their information remains secure.

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How Businesses Use Security Technologies

Network security has become a requirement for businesses, especially those that rely on the Internet. Your customers, vendors and business partners probably expect you to protect any information they share with you.

While network security has almost become a prerequisite to running a business, it also pays off in multiple ways. Here are some of the benefits businesses gain from a secured network:

Customer trust

  • Privacy is assured
  • Collaboration is encouraged

A strong security stance assures customers that sensitive information, such as credit card numbers or confidential business details, will not be accessed and exploited. Your business partners will feel more confident sharing data such as sales forecasts or pre-release product plans. In addition, the same technologies that keep intruders out can give your partners secure access to information on your network, helping you collaborate and work together more effectively.


  • Secure access on the road
  • Promotes productivity while out of the office

Strong network security lets your employees safely access your network from the road or from home without introducing viruses or other threats. Secure, convenient network access means that employees can use critical information when they need it, making them more productive when they're away from their desks.

Improved productivity

  • Less time wasted on spam
  • Better employee morale and collaboration

An effective network security program can boost productivity across your organization. Employees spend less time on non-productive tasks such as sifting through spam or dealing with viruses. Your network and your Internet connection remain safe, ensuring you and your employees have regular access to the Internet and e-mail.

Reduced costs

  • Service disruption is avoided
  • Advanced services safely evolve

Network downtime is costly to all types of businesses. By ensuring your network and your Internet connection are safely up and running, you can be sure that customers can reach you when they need you. Effective security allows your business to add new services and applications without disrupting the performance of your network. Taking a proactive approach to safeguarding your data ensures your business remains up and running when it needs to be.

As your company grows, its networking needs will change. Establishing a strong, secure network today will allow your company to add advanced features such as secured wireless networking or voice and conferencing.

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Getting Started with Network Security

Matching the needs of your business with the right security technologies is the first step to launching a network security project.

Use the following list of considerations to get you started:

Your current security level
Take an inventory of the security features your network already has. This list will help identify gaps in your current protection methods.

  • Does it offer firewalls, a virtual private network, intrusion prevention, virus protection, a secured wireless network, anomaly detection, and identity management and compliance validation?
  • Do these features communicate with one another?

Your assets
Make a "laundry list" of your assets to determine how many levels, or layers, of protection your system needs.

  • Within your particular business, what assets are the most critical to your success?
  • Is protecting your internal information most important; your customers' information; or both?
  • How much are these assets worth?
  • Where do these assets reside within you system?

Information transfer
Assess how information is shared inside and outside of your company.

  • Do your employees need quick access to internal information in order to do their jobs?
  • Do you share data outside the four walls of your business?
  • How do you control who has access to this information?
  • Do you provide varying levels of access to different network users?

Plans for growth
Is your company planning on adding advanced features to your system? How adaptable and flexible will your system need to be? Your security solution should be able to accommodate increased network traffic or advanced applications without disrupting service.

Risk assessment
Determine if the consequences of a security breach extend beyond lost productivity or an interruption in service.

  • How regulated is your business environment?
  • What are the risks of non-compliance?
  • How much downtime can your business tolerate before financial or reputation losses accrue?

Ease of use
The best security technology will do you no good if it can't easily be installed or used. Make sure you have the resources to manage the system you install.

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Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Partner

A channel partner is an important ally in choosing and using network security. A knowledgeable partner who can assess your current level of protection and guide you to the right solution will help you develop a safe and flexible network.

Here are five key questions to ask potential partners who offer SMB Solutions:

  1. Do you specialize in working with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)? Cisco has a network of certified partners who specifically focus on providing technology solutions and support to SMBs. Many of these partners are SMBs themselves, so they understand the business challenges you face and the goals you have in mind. Cisco certified partners have proven their qualifications in specialized technologies. They have the training, support, and services to design, deploy, and optimize networking solutions for your business. They also stay up to date on the latest software and hardware changes as well as upcoming Cisco products and solutions.
  2. What type of service and support do you offer after the sale? Ask your partner detailed questions about the support he or she can offer after the sale. For example: Does the partner offer after-hours or emergency support? If so, during what hours is that support available? The specific support levels offered should be detailed in a service level agreement (SLA). Also, keep in mind many Cisco partners offer award-winning technical support service that offers anytime access to Cisco engineers and an extensive range of technical resources.
  3. How will this new solution integrate with my existing IT environment? A Cisco partner can discuss your business requirements and evaluate your current systems and network infrastructure. From there, a Cisco Partner can present solution options that will meet your needs today, grow with your business over time, and fit within your budget requirements.
  4. How will this solution help me save money and control my costs? An end-to-end solution from Cisco is easier to maintain and support than a, multi-vendor solution. Also, when budgeting for network enhancements, always take into account the cost of any software not included with your hardware purchases; maintenance; training; support; additional staff (if needed); and other factors. Research firm Gartner estimates such indirect costs account for up to 60% of an organization's total technology expenditures. As a result, by working with your Cisco partner, you can achieve the best possible TCO.
  5. What do we need to do to prepare? Before the installation, ask your partner what information about your network, users, business procedures, and security requirements he or she needs from you to make the network upgrade go as smoothly as possible. Also ask your partner what are the common oversights or challenges businesses like yours face when upgrading their networks, and how you should prepare for them.


Contact a Cisco partner to learn more and get exactly what you need.

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