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Are Network Health-Checks Becoming Vital for All Businesses?

By Gregg Meade & Jim Lucking on 20th Feb 2018

Network Health-Checks: are they essential to the modern business?

As business networks become increasingly 'mission-critical', and the pressure on organisations of all kinds, and in every sector, to better protect their data grows, understanding our infrastructures and enusring their health is a 'hot topic'.

Health-checks are a service that we at Ensign Communications have been offering for many years, but the extent to which they are becoming a foundation for modern networking is changing rapaidly.

Where to Begin?...

Now, it would seem that a fair place to start a blog about network health-checks is to ask the question: why have one at all?

The reasons for conducting periodic, or even ‘one-off’, network health-checks are vast but, as a rule, come down to better understanding your businesses network and having the information to make any necessary improvements.

The Year of GDPR

In the year of GDPR (May 25th 2018 – a date we all have in our calendars; probably in BIG red letters), ensuring that business networks are a) Secure and b) compliant, is nothing short of essential if business longevity and reputation are deemed to be of any importance.  

The mantra with regards to data storage and your business is as follows (repeat it, shout it, act on it!)

“If you are storing data, your business network MUST meet the requirements of data protection”

We will put some more information together on GDPR in relation to network security and health-checks, but in the meantime, you can find a great deal of useful GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) at the following sites.

Knowledge is Power

Not being a ‘mechanically minded’ individual, I like to think about network health-checks as being akin to getting my car serviced or MOT’d. Unless there are plumes of smoke or loud bangs coming from the vehicle, I wouldn’t have much cause for concern and would be – in all honesty – ignorant to any existing or potential problems.

Better understanding your business network is simply the best way to mitigate any cybersecurity or performance issues which may have gone unnoticed. Once the infrastructure, in its current state, is mapped and understood, effective changes to both your business 'culture' and the behaviour of individuals within it - with regards to best practices - can begin.  

“Changing the culture in a positive way is the most effective way of protecting your business, your employees and your customers from any form of cyberattack, hack or data breach.”

In our experience, the classic scenario is that a business owner will often not see the benefit of a network health-check on the basis that they have “never been hacked”.”

Jim Lucking, Head of Cybersecurity @ Ensign Communications.   

“I’ve Never Been Hacked”

Although this reasoning – having never noticed a hack, one would feel safe in the assumption that their network is secure - would seem to stand up initially, when followed with the question: how to do you know you’ve never been hacked? The benefits of a network health-check will hopefully become a little clearer.

The uncomfortable truth is that, unless a business or business owner is extorted by a successful hack for a large sum of money, the vast majority of successful data breaches go unnoticed.

Network security breaches happen ALL OF THE TIME, and with cybercriminals going to increasingly extreme lengths to capture sensitive or valuable data, businesses and organisations should be looking to protect their commercially sensitive information at all costs.

So, in summary – why bother getting a health-check of your network infrastructure?

  1. To better understand your network as a whole
  2. To highlight current or potential future issues  
  3. To better understand the risks that you and your business face (risks that, ultimately, could be commercially damaging)
  4. To ensure that you and your business are compliant with the changes to GDPR and data storage

Health-Checks for Older Networks

Performing a health-check on an existing network infrastructure can be a real game changer for businesses, and is something we have experienced first-hand. With changes (both temporary and permanent), modifications, re-configurations and staff churn all potentially having an impact on business networks, a health-check can reveal a system which is almost unrecognisable from the original design.

Going back to my automotive analogy; it’s like owning a Porsche, popping the bonnet and finding a mouse in a wheel…

OK, maybe that’s and extreme example, but you get my point!

Essentially, what I’m driving at (pun intended) is that all of our network infrastructures undergo systematic changes - particularly in relation to cyber-security - meaning that the original design can alter beyond all recognition.

The story is the same: a firewall rule change here, open ports not subsequently closed, a reconfiguration there, a handful of personnel changes and all of a sudden, your once-secure network may have a few ‘unwanted’ holes. The scary thing is that these changes could happen periodically over many months, or even years, in which time the impact could be nothing short of catastrophic (more on this later).

We often perform ‘one-off’ network health-checks, which are useful, but it is for the above reason that periodic health-checks are what might be considered 'best practice'.

It’s All About the Business Benefits

What we are saying here, is that network and security health-checks aren’t merely about having a view of your network and plugging the gaps, they are about identifying areas through which your business can actually benefit from a more proactive approach to network and data security.

We like to think of these businesses benefits as being ‘internal’ and ‘external’.

Internally, you can be safe in the knowledge that your business data, customer data and staff are offered the best possible protection and, externally, the longevity of your hard-earned reputation, solvency and legal compliance are all taken care of – leaving you to do what is most important; running your business.

It’s What’s On the Inside That Counts

Sticking with the inside-outside theme, what we try to express to our customers is that understanding what is going-on within the perimeter of your network is far more important than worrying about the dangers lurking on the outside.

Although it might be somewhat unfair to point any fingers, the mainstream discourse surrounding business cybersecurity is predominately concerned with what is ‘on the outside trying to get in’.

A potent idea though it is - and we are all right to be concerned about external threats to our business data security - the real, and more immediate, threat is what may already be on the inside.

If data is being ‘leached’ from inside your network, not only is this more difficult to detect, it can be happening for long period of time without any visible consequence – something a health-check would pick-up as a matter of course.

It's Non-Disruptive

So, what does a network health-check involve and how long does it take?

In the most simplistic terms, we would put a monitoring device on your network, either preconfigured and sent to you, or installed by our network architects on your premises. What follows is a ‘listening’ stage, which lasts approximately two weeks – from which we would provide a report (ask us for a sample - here).

From the findings of the report we would then look to provide you with a list of our recommendations. These could be focused on the design of your network, your firewall security or any number of items which are attached to achieving better, safer networking for your business.

Why Trust Ensign Communications?

We understand that when we broach the subject of network security, there will always be a trust element to consider, and we would advise that, before you let anyone on your corporate network (Ensign or otherwise), a high degree of due diligence should be undertaken.

Of course, should you select Ensign as your trusted partner, we’d like to think that our legacy speaks for itself:

Last year, Ensign celebrated its 30th year in business and has fostered lasting relationships with some of the world’s most recognisable brands and businesses.

Our focus has always been on technology, first and foremost, and it is in this that, alongside our highly-trained and accredited technical team, we continue to be a leading light for business networking and cybersecurity.

If you'd like to know more about network health-checks or have any other questions relating to the topics covered in the article, please get in touch

What Next?

For advice on designing or upgrading your business WiFi network and associated systems, to the deployment of security solutions like Next Generation Firewalls and Endpoint Network Security, please contact Ensign Communications for a chat with our technical team.

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