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BLOG: Power and control

Angelo Comazzetto | Sept. 1, 2011
Implementing best practices may not improve your network security.

As is all too common in the technology market, specifically the security market, we have become enamored with the features and functions of next generation firewall solutions, such as Application Control. While the capabilities of next generation solutions are impressive, it is all too easy for businesses to get caught up in exciting new features and lose focus on what enables them to make a real positive impact in their business.

When given a new tool like Application Control, it is tempting to immediately start turning on all features and creating new security and network rules. However, this would negate the true power of this functionality. When it comes to Application Control, the real benefit to organisations is in the increased visibility it offers. The increased visibility allows IT administrators to make educated decisions regarding security and network policies.

Like horoscopes, most industry standards and best practices were created to appeal to a wide set of businesses and do not take into account the unique needs and network usage trends of individual organisations. This is why the increased visibility offered by Application Control is so useful. Instead of wasting time implementing policies and creating rules which may have little or no impact on the business or network performance, IT administrators can be assured that implementations have a positive impact on the business's bottom line.

Using Application Control features, IT administrators can truly understand how the network is used and base their decisions on information rather than what best practices everyone else is implementing. To get the most benefit out of any technology, businesses need to have a clear understanding of how the network is being used and what problems they truly have. Only then can the business benefit from new features.

For example, it is considered wise to block Facebook applications like Mafia Wars or Farmville. Most of us can agree that playing online games is counterproductive at work and should not be allowed to take up bandwidth on a business network.

However, before taking the time to create rules that will block such applications, an IT administrator can use the visibility gained with Application Control features to determine if these types of applications are causing a problem in the first place.

Blanket ban not always the answer

If the company doesn't have a Mafia Wars problem then why create a solution? Administrators have enough problems to solve without creating solutions to problems that do not exist. Even worse, if you implement this best practice and no one was using Mafia Wars to begin with, it will have no impact on the network and thus no benefit at all.

Furthermore, a blanket ban on access to social networking platforms at work may not necessarily lead to greater productivity since there are workers who utilise these platforms to network with potential customers or gain industry insights. In fact, a recent global survey by Regus on the use of social networks by businesses discovered that as many as 47 percent of firms globally are successfully using social networking to find new businesses this year, a growth of 7 percent compared to last year.


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