Networks failures are a guarantee. It’s not a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when.' However, if you pay attention to the reasons why a network can fail and carefully examine the causes, taking a proactive approach, then you can head off those failures before they become a major financial headache.
There is always the threat of external threats like hackers and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. With hackers, there’s the possibility of a breach in the network’s firewalls that can be exploited, compromising sensitive and valuable company, customer and product information. With DDoS attacks, several systems are working in concert to flood the network with traffic, causing the system to crash. Both are more common with larger corporations, however, they can affect businesses of any size.
One thing to remember is that not every outage is caused from external threats. Most network outages are caused by the company’s own people. In a recent 2015 study, 80% of outages impacting mission-critical services are caused by human error and processing issues. 50% of those outages are further caused by changes to the system configuration or the integration of new equipment or software.
For internal threats to the network, the plan to stay secure is pretty straight forward:
1) Perform consistent and discernable checks and balances.
Code reviews are the best way to go and have become a regular practice in network maintenance. The more checks, the higher the code quality, which great reduces the chance of an error. IT should adopt a similar practice during their regular system reviews.
2) Maintain a consistent monitoring schedule.
Before any changes are made to the system, make sure that the system is functioning as it should. It isolates any potential problems by localizing the issue to the most recent changes. Configuration alerts help IT teams respond quickly and effectively in handling negative performance.
3) Keep it simple
Massive changes to a network usually happen when a company wants to update their network system from the top down, either to meet new customer demands or to expand their markets. When large changes like this are planned, it’s best to break down the large task into smaller, remedial tasks to keep a better hold of any problems that could occur. When you change a system through multiple ports, isolating any problems becomes nearly impossible and you may need to spend unnecessary funds just to get it back to normal.
4) Build in room for improvement.
This is tricky since you’re essentially predicting that something will go wrong. You should because it will. By building in redundancies, restore points and backup systems, it prevents catastrophic loss of data and services and makes maintenance much easier.
5) Keep people informed.
Regardless of the changes made to the system network, the parties or groups that are most directly impacted must be informed and kept into the loop before and after implementation. It maintains user vigilance to irregularities and abnormalities.
For external threats, the precautions are very similar:
1) Shields up.
The first line of defense of any network system are the firewalls and the latest in security patches. It’s not an all-powerful shield from outside of the network but these are the basics of network protection. Ignoring them guarantees corrupting your system and that can be a very expensive negligence.
Maintaining a consistent monitoring system of the firewalls and network abnormalities, such as high unusually high CPU and bandwidth usage, can alert IT that there might be unauthorized attempts to access the system.
3) Make sure you have the right technology.
There are several software packages that can monitor the system and alert IT of anything wrong that function with current network transmission technology. Adding in deep-packet inspection or flow-based sensors can monitor network behavior and tell you if there is anything wrong as it happens.
4) Assign ownership.
Assigning responsible taskmasters of the network’s viability confers accountability. Someone from the IT department who is responsible for the security of the network will feel more inclined to stay focused and vigilant to safeguard the network. This individual is part of security assessments and analysis, is familiar with the security threat landscape, is the consultant to any suspicious network activity and educates the rest of the company on best network safety practices.