Businesses across the UK are faced with a double-threat when it comes to maintaining a functional and secure IT network. On the one hand, as companies increasingly depend on technology to support business processes, they need more and more investment in the IT infrastructure, and the more tech assets they have, the more work needs to be done to adequately secure them. The same goes for the volume of data they now gather and process on a daily basis. It all needs to be protected.
On the other hand, there is also an increasing cyber security threat, with more complex malware and more expert hackers ready and waiting to pounce on any vulnerabilities. One of the first lines of defence against these threats is the firewall, but a misjudged, inefficient or poorly monitored firewall can actually hinder your business. In this blog, we look at some of the reasons why your firewall may be doing more harm than good, and how an outsourced IT support service in London can help.
Your firewall is not configured properly
To put it simply, a company’s firewall is there to stop malware, ransomware or other viruses, and other forms of unauthorised intrusion into your network, while enabling staff or other authorised personnel access to the network, systems and devices they need to do their job.
It’s the gateway between your network and the internet, but also between the various components of your overall IT infrastructure, from your servers to your mobile devices, and it needs to be able to prevent against cyber security threats, or at least stop them from spreading throughout your network if they do manage to penetrate the defences.
However, it is not always easy to configure the firewall to incorporate the right level of protection and safety measures across a growing number of devices or complex systems, and when this configuration is not up to scratch, it can leave the company open to attack, damage productivity, or both. Broad firewall configurations leave networks open to savvy attackers, but an over-zealous set-up can leave key staff members unable to access what they need to work effectively.
Many IT teams implement a broad firewall set-up and plan to work backwards from there, but when everyday break-fix scenarios or the demands of ongoing machine maintenance increase, this can be put on the back burner, resulting in a lack of specific configurations that meet the protection needs of the company.
In order to guarantee an effective firewall, companies need to define up-front their network policies, their cyber security culture, their IT infrastructure, and their workflows, and then put the right firewalls in place to meet the demands of security and functionality.
This may be one project too many for a busy in-house IT team, which is why outsourcing the process to an IT support team can be a great benefit. Not only can they run an IT audit to outline what tech assets you have and what needs to be protected so that you can devise a firewall policy that works, and implement it for you, they can also perform data mapping to give you an in-depth understanding of how data moves through your network, further enhancing the ability to protect your systems.
They can advise on and implement a ‘least privilege’ policy across your IT infrastructure to give the minimum level of access to users, but can also then design an IT roadmap in line with your growth plans so that you can build a firewall policy that will help future-proof your business.
An overloaded firewall hinders performance
As companies invest in more and more IT assets in order to stay competitive, from mobile devices that support a remote working policy to upgraded apps, they increasingly push the limits of their network’s performance. The firewall can very easily become overloaded, causing a bottleneck that can disrupt business continuity and a general slowing down in the performance of the systems and apps needed to function properly.
When this problem arises, companies can face a dilemma: Either undergo an IT infrastructure overhaul to upgrade all essential tech assets, which can be costly, or relax the firewall features to allow more traffic to pass through unchecked, thus leaving you open to cyber threats.
Your outsourced IT support team can provide an alternative option. As well as offering proactive machine maintenance to identify when your tech is struggling and performing the fixes and upgrades needed before they become a liability, they can also implement intrusion prevention to monitor network traffic, detect potential threats and act on them quickly, so your productivity can remain at optimum levels while you retain the right level of security.
You can’t see through the traffic
With so much traffic flowing through your network, controlling it is a vital part of every firewall, because you need to be able to identify and prioritise business-critical applications, limit the use of social apps that hinder productivity, and block potentially malicious ones. However, if you can’t see the traffic on your network, you can’t control it.
Without comprehensive visibility, how can you tell whether traffic on your network is normal, suspicious, high risk, or outright malicious? You also won’t be able to identify what components of your network are eating up your bandwidth, so you will be unable to make the right decisions about prioritising business-critical apps while removing those not related to productivity, or simply not being used and lying idle.
Compliance can also be an issue here. With GDPR finally here, businesses are acutely aware of the need to ensure they are not hosting or distributing data that does not comply with strict new regulations, but if your company can’t see what is running through the network, it can’t know if it is compliant.
An outsourced IT support team can provide the expertise needed here to monitor all traffic across your network, and advise on the measures you need to put in place to strengthen your firewall and safeguard all of your data, apps and systems. They can help you identify risky users and applications, increase productivity by controlling non-work related traffic, and optimise bandwidth for business-critical use.
An IT consulting service with expertise in GDPR can also advise on the steps you need to take to be compliant, not just with your firewall, but across your entire organisation.
The firewall is costing you money
It is estimated that it takes three hours to identify and fix every infected computer in your network, and according to a 2017 study, organisations are spending on average seven working days per month on this task. That amounts to a lot of time and money being spent on maintenance, not to mention the fact that your IT team’s skills could be used elsewhere to increase productivity and improve efficiency.
Hiring an outsourced IT support team to take on the task of firewall management means your in-house IT team can concentrate on improving the business through innovation, but an external IT service with expertise in cyber security can also implement the upgrades that will enable your firewall to automatically isolate and fix infected or damaged systems and devices.
That means your business can continue to work towards growth and innovation, without having to worry about the safety of the IT infrastructure, and can cut the costs of having the in-house IT team use up all of their resources on time-consuming firewall management and IT asset maintenance.
Your firewall is crucial to secure business operations, but it needs to work well and be monitored properly in order for it to remain both effective and efficient. Poor configuration, a lack of insight into network traffic, lack of integration with upgraded systems and costly fixes can all lead to your firewall damaging your business, but with the help of an outsourced IT support team, you can solve these problems quickly and focus on running your business.
The team at Optimity can provide the effective firewall implementation, upgrades, fixes and monitoring you need to keep your business secure and efficient. Discover how we can help by booking an IT audit with us, and refresh your cyber security knowledge by downloading our Cyber Security Checklist: