Why SDN Needs to Emphasize Network Security More

Network SecurityThe next generation of networking includes software defined networking (SDN), as network controls shift from hardware to software. It’s the result of merging multiple devices into one controller, which empowers the user to control an entire network. It’s a giant leap in the evolution of administrative control, but developers must still face network security challenges for this new technology.

Control Plane Concerns

The main concern that users should have about SDN at this stage is that the control plane can be compromised. A separate issue involves the scalability of the control plane. If a hacker is able to gain access to the control plane, they can potentially control the entire network. Another part of the risk involves how easy it is to misconfigure architecture due to the flexible nature of the software.

SDN as a Networking Solution

Despite the network security issues, SDN is quickly becoming a solution for overcoming modern networking problems. One of the reasons for this trend is that it allows for maintenance dry-out. It also answers several other technical issues. The network is set up to respond to its own threats. The problem is that new product developers are not spending enough time working out security issues.

More Than a Buzz Word

SDN is still not clearly defined, which adds to the uncertainty surrounding network security. Many people have used SDN as a buzz word, as different companies such as Cisco have their own definition of it. Various vendors are defining it based on how it fits their existing product lines. Even though SDN is supposed to make a network more consistent, its ambiguity creates confusion.

SDN is not really a new development, but it has the feel of new technology since all the bugs have yet to be worked out. Developers also need to work on making the technology more stable. What’s more, there aren’t many SDN specialists yet, as networking or data center teams have been left in charge of it.

Industry leaders warn that teams using SDN must be careful about hardware rules concerning switches. They also point to multiple layers of security as the safest solution, whether the business uses SDN or not. One of the major benefits of SDN technology is that it allows for fast reconfiguration.

Conclusion

Businesses that have quickly adopted SDN to resolve networking solutions need to consider that this technology still has network security issues. SDN will become more efficient once more focus is put into making the solution more secure. It is becoming widely used due to the simplicity of consolidating all controls into one controller.

VoIP Network Software and Hardware Security

VOIPSince Voice over IP (VoIP) and hosted PBX services are easy to deploy, some small to medium businesses (SMBs) take network security for granted. Enterprise network security requires more attention, but anyone using VoIP is still a target for foreign attacks. Following are areas of concern for management when implementing these modern communication features.

VoIP and Hosted PBX Vulnerabilities 

  • DDoS attacks can indefinitely block business communication.
  • Cyber criminals can listen to phone conversations and steal trade secrets.
  • Spies, ex-employees, or script kiddies can infect a network with ransomware.

Firewalls

Firewalls are simple to set up, as provisions and configurations determine who has access to a network. In other words, firewalls allow users assigned by administrators to access the network, while blocking unfamiliar users.

Businesses commonly use software firewalls on each node of a network to filter traffic based on individual configurations. While a software firewall is easy to implement, it can be expensive due to purchasing of multiple licenses and extra maintenance costs for each machine. Other drawbacks to consider before implementing software firewalls include:

  • Installation on individual computers is time consuming.
  • Users of each machine must be involved in the installation process.
  • Security is weaker, making it easy for hackers to infiltrate.
  • They are not user-friendly for inexperienced computer users, creating confusion and disruption.

The best way to approach network security is to use common sense by staying on top of which connections are allowed by administrators and blocking suspicious users.

Hardware Firewalls Strengthen Security

While software firewalls need to be installed on each network machine, a single hardware firewall can be assigned to the entire network as an extra protective layer. Whatever work needs to be done in terms of provisions, configurations, monitoring, or maintenance can be executed on one computer. This quicker approach does not require as much participation from individual users.

Packet loss can be avoided across the network, as security managers can configure a hardware firewall when necessary so that traffic is prioritized separately for VoIP or video conferencing. Maintenance and monitoring will still need to be overseen by IT personnel. Hardware firewalls may integrate with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for encrypted connections, which entails:

  • Time consuming initial installation but to a lesser degree than a software firewall
  • Prioritizing VoIP and video data for a jitter free, smooth, and secure experience
  • Reduced restrictions on permissioned users
  • Less need to train workers on how to make network access decisions

Cloud Managed Firewalls 

Investing in a hardware firewall clearly provides more efficiency and stronger protection than a software firewall, and can work as a premises, network, or cloud solution. A cloud service provider may be the most efficient solution for businesses that prefer IT services to be managed by an offsite third party. Even though a managed firewall often requires hardware to be connected to the network, most cloud service providers will handle maintenance, provisioning, and monitoring from their data center.

Furthermore, they can provide continuous firewall administration, monitoring, and quick response to security issues. Quality cloud providers manage firewalls using reliable brands such as Cisco, Dell Security, and Verizon Enterprise Solutions or niche competitors such as Secure Works or Simple WAN.

Conclusion  

SMBs that use VoIP and hosted PBX can improve security with a hardware firewall that protects every computer on a network. Some companies choose to install software firewalls on individual computers, but this strategy can run up costs. Companies that would rather not worry about the nuts and bolts of IT work should consider cloud managed services.

 

Addressing BYOD Challenges Using the Cloud

Cloud, BYODBring your own device (BYOD) policies are on the rise, and not just at startups: recent surveys have shown that over 70% of organizations either have a BYOD policy in place or are planning to introduce one. The benefits, from lower hardware costs to increased employee satisfaction, are clear. Unfortunately, so are the drawbacks – increased IT support costs and heightened security concerns among them. One surprising answer to these concerns may be cloud computing.

 

The Challenges of BYOD

BYOD policies buy flexibility on the employees’ end with a decrease in centralization and standardization on the company’s. Employees may choose to do their work from different devices (such as computers, smartphones, and tablets), on different operating systems, and from different locations. This may include accessing company data from unsecured networks and using devices or browsers with security issues or ones that aren’t compatible with file types used. This increases the burden on a company’s IT department, as they may need to become fluent in supporting a number of different platforms.

 

Cloud Computing’s Answer

While cloud computing may seem like a step away from controlling company data and employee access, it actually allows a company to add a layer of abstraction between employee devices and company resources. This layer can then be optimized for security and access.

Moving documents to the cloud, for example, allows the cloud-based service to enforce its own access protocols, and may also allow for more sophisticated locking, check-in/check-out procedures, and version tracking/control. Cloud services may offer two-factor authentication and other protocols for access management. And if an employee’s device should be stolen, having documents in the cloud – rather than allowing local copies to be kept on the user’s device – mitigates the risk.

Cloud computing can also be made more secure by mandating the use of certain policies and tools:

  • DNS firewalls. Part of the appeal of BYOD policies is the ability to work from outside a company office, whether at an out-of-state conference or a local coffee shop. But these unsecured hotspots may be attractive targets for opportunistic hackers. DNS firewalls, so long as they’re kept up-to-date with accurate threat data, can safeguard activity on unsecured networks.
  • Standardized software. Even if the devices show startling diversity, the software run on them doesn’t need to. Employees can be required to access company resources using certain applications on their devices, or even to use Software as a Service cloud applications. This narrows the scope of what IT needs to keep an eye on.
  • Requiring appropriate devices. A BYOD policy doesn’t have to mean that anything goes. A company can meet employees halfway by allowing them to use one of a variety of devices – so long as those devices meet minimum hardware and OS requirements, or come from a pre-approved list. Options available could be validated by IT departments to ensure that they are free of major security vulnerabilities.

 

Implementing BYOD

There’s no one-size-fits-all BYOD implementation, and cloud computing isn’t the only tool available. To learn more about the perils and payoffs of BYOD, contact us today.

Enhance Security for IoT Products Using Big Data Solutions

Security regulations and mandates regarding data protection require companies to log a large number of events to maintain compliance. With the global marketplace firmly established, rules outlined in regulatory directives such as the PCI (payment card industry), ISO (International Organization for Standardization), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), and others, are established to maintain the privacy of sensitive information. However, the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) has altered the way companies must perform security measures.

This shifting dynamic is the result of software indexing that fails to account for the growing presence of the IoT. Traditionally, companies utilize Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software to fulfill compliance performance requisites, which include security event logging and retention, as well as threat recognition, alerts, assessments, and responses. However, indexing data from firewalls, authentication, and anti-virus products is now only part of the picture.

 

Enter the IoT

Other event data (like that from cloud platforms and mobile devices) must also be logged to ensure security, and networked physical devices that feature embedded operating systems are especially susceptible. These IoT devices contain indicators of advanced threats, particularly those that stem from customized malware or the theft of legitimate credentials, which are easily overlooked. Depending on the size of the company and the industry, the number of IoT devices vary, but some common ones include:

  • Point of sale terminals
  • ATMs
  • Imaging and medical systems
  • Floor kiosks (employee stations)
  • Electrical or industrial grid systems that regulate operations, and similar industrial control systems

Although these items facilitate productivity, they also present a security loophole. Without indexing the event data for these types of devices, if a cyber attack occurs, there’ll be no evidence to examine. However, by logging events from IoT devices, companies can track and respond to threats, often before the criminals have achieved their primary goal.

 

Big Data Solutions

Problems exist because of the current strategies used for compliance. SIEM software often suffers from difficulty managing the large amounts of event data being indexed from traditional security products, making the increased volume of data from IoT devices impossible to include. First, “connectors” are costly to build for an IoT product. Moreover, the fixed schema of a single, relational datastore compromises the log data and establishes a point of failure that hinders speed and scale. A rigid user interface (UI) that hampers customized searches and report building capability also makes it difficult for companies to perform ad hoc audit requests or specific investigations.

However, big data delivers actionable solutions for businesses by eliminating these issues. Big data solutions feature:

  • Flexible, low cost connectors that facilitate the onboarding of event data, including IoT products
  • Flat file store that establishes indexing of all data without requiring modifications
  • Quick scaling and speedy intake, searches, reports, and alerts, generated by a distributed architecture
  • Elastic search and reporting aptitude that allows companies to perform detailed investigations and respond in effective ways

Big data offers businesses heightened protection and improved compliance performance by delivering a software-based solution that is able to index massive amounts of machine and event data. With real-time searching abilities, hierarchy/role-based access, and specific log retention, it delivers enhanced security results. Plus, it can be deployed on premise, through a hybrid solution, or solely in the cloud. Moreover, many service agreements come equipped with pre-built searches to increase compliance efficiency.

Any business can enhance event logging and compliance performance using big data solutions that seamlessly incorporate IoT products.

Ensuring Effective Network Performance: Capacity Planning 101

Nothing is as frustrating for employees or customers as ridiculously slow access or latency during important calls. These problems result from inadequate bandwidth, and most organizations approach network capability planning by either apportioning more bandwidth than is needed or suffering from problems during high-traffic times.

Essentially, network performance is dictated by throughput and capacity. To ensure sufficient capability, businesses must first understand where the problems originate, and then develop a workable solution to mitigate them.

 Bottlenecking Issues

The enterprise technologies used to perform daily tasks siphon bandwidth depending on usage. When higher numbers of users increase traffic across the network, either through wired or wireless access, users experience lags in throughput. Some of the biggest culprits include:

  • Software Tools and Applications—Warehouse management, customer relationship management (CRM), and enterprise resource management (ERP) systems record, process, and analyze large amounts of data from a variety of sources, often in real-time.
  • Cloud Computing—Cloud storage, backup, and sharing, whether through the public or private cloud, consume high levels of bandwidth because of the large volumes of data being transferred.
  • Mobility—Mobile access is enabling improved communication and productivity for organizations, but supporting all those remote devices places a drain on network performance.
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)—Enhanced mobility, better, more reliable communications, videos, and live streaming provide superior tools for work tasks, but they also require large bandwidth.

 Pinpointing Traffic and Bandwidth Requirements

Before upgrading infrastructure, companies need a visible outline of where and when traffic volumes across the network are creating problems. Simply increasing total bandwidth is cost prohibitive because organizations end up paying for more than is actually required.

To understand bandwidth needs, companies should examine these areas:

  • Core Network Traffic—Determine exactly how much bandwidth is required to perform core tasks.
  • Other Traffic—This includes internal connections, data transfers to and from cloud applications, and communication packets.
  • Source and Destination—The distance from the origin site to the destination impacts bandwidth consumption.

 Measuring for Success

Once traffic requirements are identified, organizations are in a position to apportion and assign bandwidth accordingly. The most cost-effective solution involves leveraging on-demand bandwidth, which offers the ability to curtail and increase bandwidth in relation to usage requirements and predictions.

First, determine the average rate of transfer relative to current bandwidth. Immediate upgrades will be necessary if the current megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps) are inadequate for the amount of throughput required. Then ascertain additional needs during peak times.

By developing effective capacity planning that is designed to ensure reliable performance, companies can maintain business productivity and user satisfaction.

When to Consider Updating Call Center Software

shutterstock_207082261After a company first implements call center software in its business operations, it may be a long time before employees realize that certain useful capabilities are missing. These capabilities might range from the ability to handle higher call volumes to more efficient video conferencing. Following are several signs that it may be time to upgrade a business’s call center software.

 

Certain Call Center Features Are Missing

One of the main problems with traditional call center services is the need to purchase certain features separately. Whether it’s additional software or equipment, it will likely cost more than a company is willing to spend.

Thankfully, newer software packages come with many different features, including call forwarding and social media integration.

The Current Software Limits the Company’s Growth

The lack of scalability in call center technology can greatly hinder a company’s ability to grow. Call centers need to expand with new employees and more capable technology during peak seasons, but traditional onsite call centers don’t typically allow for this.

Using a virtual call center allows for greater scalability and provides solutions that accommodate additional employees and subsequent software needs.

There Is a Lack of Continuity

Another issue with traditional call centers is the overall lack of disaster recovery capabilities. If call centers are located onsite, there’s a smaller chance of effective recovery when the network goes down. There are certain steps companies should take to ensure that their call centers have sufficient continuity implemented.

A company could discuss with its current provider the upgrades that would help deploy an effective data recovery solution. Alternatively, a business could switch over to a virtual call center that comes with plenty of redundancy in the event of data loss.

If all a business needs is added data redundancy, it may be better off sticking with its current provider and only using that additional service. However, if other important features such as improved scalability are noticeably missing, turning to a virtual call center provider may be a more inexpensive and efficient solution to the continuity issue.

The Call Center Is Simply Not Worth the Cost

The cost of running a traditional call center can be particularly high, taking into account certain maintenance and upgrade costs along with other expenses.

Cloud-based virtual call centers, on the other hand, are typically much more affordable, and provide companies with all of the features they need in convenient packages. No upfront capital investment is required, and companies usually only pay a set monthly fee along with payments for total minutes used. Virtual call centers also eliminate the need for a dedicated IT team, as providers are responsible for maintenance and upgrades.

Is an Upgrade Appropriate?

These are just some of the many reasons companies might consider upgrading their call center software. If any of the above issues are recognizable, it may be time for a business to look for a virtual call center solution that can meet all of its needs without requiring a massive investment.

How VoIP Affects Customer Service

VoIPCompanies must strive to enhance the consumer experience at every turn. Meeting client needs in a timely and professional manner helps generate lasting buzz about a business’s brand and can lead to word-of-mouth marketing, which is vital in increasing visibility.

With optimal customer service, companies are able to improve reputability and increase recurring business across the board. For any new or existing business to survive, however, it must tap into current technological trends. This includes Voice over IP (VoIP), which is designed to streamline and centralize communications across the board.

​The Benefits of VoIP

VoIP alleviates the need for outdated and costly business phone systems. And no matter the industry, niche, or sector, the benefits of VoIP are truly bountiful for clients and employees alike. These benefits include:

  • Internet telephony systems that seamlessly integrate with existing hardware and software applications;
  • advanced features such as Find Me/Follow Me and call forwarding that ensure businesses never miss a call;
  • integrated and cohesive platforms for agents, which establish true comprehensive communication protocols across the board;
  • data sharing and uploads from one central online platform; and
  • integration with work and cell phones.

Extended Customer Support Hours

Since VoIP systems are Internet-based, businesses do not have to rely on in-house or domestic workforces to meet company directives and initiatives. Remote employees are able to meet customer needs and requests from literally any location at any time. VoIP also facilitates customer service in the following ways:

  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) enables callers to easily connect to extensions with live representative assistance.
  • VoIP features multiple options for clients within a user-friendly interface.
  • The system reduces miscommunication for callers, while eliminating expensive labor and overhead costs.

Increased Phone Call Speeds

VoIP also increases phone call speeds, which are vital in minimizing holding times for clients. With VoIP, clients and callers are assured:

  • optimal phone speeds to improve overall communications and performance;
  • automatically retrieved client information upon calling, which reduces wait times and eliminates the need to repeat information for representatives; and
  • multi-faceted platforms that allow more than one representative to answer calls.

VoIP is a cost-effective alternative to traditional business phone systems and makes it easier to conduct day-to-day errands and tasks. Unlike traditional phone systems, VoIP has little to no overhead costs and is compatible with existing communications protocols and systems. It is more efficient to deploy than conventional systems, which have long been obsolete in this challenging and competitive marketplace. For businesses that continue to struggle with telecom issues, VoIP is an effective solution.

Getting Ready for the Future of Cloud Technology

shutterstock_97642988Cloud technology is constantly evolving, giving enterprises the ability to make business operations more efficient than they’ve ever been. Employees working on opposite ends of the globe can communicate effortlessly with each other. Recent developments in cloud services have ultimately improved overall productivity in the workplace, providing high-performance platforms for many different types of business operations. As this technology continues to develop over time, it’s important for businesses to prepare for the upcoming changes.

Following are some of the developments most likely to come to fruition as the cloud evolves.

The Importance of Hybrid Cloud

Because of its customizability, one development that should remain relevant in the near future is hybrid cloud technology. The hybrid cloud meets the requirements of a wide range of businesses and allows for multiple private line carriers to connect to data centers at once. The flexibility of this technology means that enterprises are likely to continue to use it in the years to come.

Security Developments

While cloud service security isn’t as much of a concern as it has been in the past, there are still many security risks that can severely compromise networks. Security companies are continually developing better ways to maintain effective protection against new risks that can result in data leakage and other problems. One of the biggest changes in security is the development of software-defined systems, which stems from the ability to define storage systems, networks, and other elements located on servers in the form of software.

Security is equally important for employees and cloud service providers. Company employees can each have their own logins and other identifying credentials integrated into systems to prevent unauthorized access, preventing the exploitation of private data. These newer security developments will help further protect sensitive company data and provide reassurance for employees and business owners.

Improved Network Support

In order to stay up to date with cloud technology and other aspects of its network, it’s important for a company to have access to necessary information and updates. This will allow a business to further increase productivity while reducing overall expenses. Unfortunately, without the right network support, businesses can’t take advantage of these potential updates. Businesses should make sure their wide area network (WAN) is capable of providing this support.

Without proper support, issues such as decreased performance due to heavy network traffic could remain problematic. Companies should prepare for any potential risk of decreased efficiency and other issues by ensuring that their network is fully supported at all times.

These are some of the many ways that businesses need to prepare for the future of cloud technology. More and more companies are beginning to fully realize the necessity of this technology in their business operations. In order to get the most out of available technology, it’s necessary for enterprises to keep up with trends, receive the proper support, and update security measures as the landscape changes.