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An organization expects its network to be reliable, secure, flexible, expandable and cost-effective. This means that IT teams must perform a series of balancing acts.
The three main challenges are:
Flexibility vs. Security
Network security has had to adapt increasingly quickly, in order to keep up with the new ways that users and back-end systems work. Mobility and variety are currently on the increase at both sides of the enterprise network. At the outer edge, users are operating a growing range of hand-held computing devices. At the inner edge, virtualised servers, new storage devices (NAS and SAN), and data backup mechanisms are replacing what used to be a simple cluster of static servers. Both user needs and business needs are adding new requirements to the list of features that a network must support. New personal computing devices, with modern operating systems and brand new capabilities, are materialising at an exponential rate. Almost as quickly as a new technology is invented – even one that previously seemed like fantasy, for example making a video call wirelessly while walking around a building – it becomes a necessity.
The era of static desk-bound PCs, running a prescribed OS image and a prescribed set of applications, has passed. The enterprise network must now be a more open platform. This flexibility in end-point devices and applications brings security risks. Contemporary operating systems and data traffic allow the possibility of unique forms of viruses and cyber-attacks. In the highly competitive mobile device market, software is rushed into production as quickly as possible, further increasing the risk of security flaws being introduced. The act of lifting restrictions on which devices can attach to the network also greatly increases the opportunities for rogue users to gain access. In the era of static desk-bound PCs, it was relatively straight-forward to create lists of allowed devices, and thereby deny connection to anything else. But, now that network users, and even network guests, can connect the devices of their choice, the process of authentication is a lot more challenging.
Flexibility at the inner edge is not quite as security-threatening as that at the outer edge. However, the mobility of virtual servers, and of storage, necessitates more advanced traffic filtering methods. Additionally, virtual servers and/or their data are increasingly being mirrored to offsite locations for disaster recovery. This introduces yet another piece to the network security puzzle.
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