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Optimize network performance without sacrificing security

NetworkTigers discusses how to optimize network performance while balancing security needs.

Balancing network performance and security requires a deep understanding of a system’s operation and an appreciation for the importance of preventing downtime from a cyberattack or infrastructure-related crash.

Modern networks need to be lightning-fast and multifaceted, allowing for any number of connections and communications without stuttering, freezing up, or otherwise impeding productivity and functionality. However, those same networks need robust security measures that filter traffic, provide valuable insights into network behavior, and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data.

You don’t need to sacrifice one to bolster the other. Here are some tips that savvy network administrators can use to inform their decision-making process and keep their systems secure and speedy.

Boost network performance via segmentation

Network segmentation is a powerful technique to improve a system’s performance and security. Administrators can tailor their maintenance and configurations to each partition’s designated functionality by dividing large networks into smaller segments. In doing so, resources can be directed to prioritized segments and kept from being used up in areas that aren’t mission-critical.

Additionally, the isolation granted by network segmentation allows for easier containment in the event of a breach. Travel between segments can be restricted, preventing employees’ accidental access and malicious lateral movement by hackers.

Use next-generation firewalls

Next-generation firewalls combine the traffic filtering functionality of traditional firewalls with advanced features such as deep packet inspection and superior detection of DDoS attacks and other potentially malicious activity. 

With the ability to react intelligently to suspicious traffic surges or movements, next-generation firewalls streamline your network infrastructure by taking on roles previously allotted to other devices. This consolidation makes for a more efficient system. 

Move to software-defined networking (SDN)

Software-defined networking (SDN), or network virtualization, allows an IT professional to administer, maintain, and observe the entirety of their network architecture via a unified software control panel. Administrators gain a bird’s eye view of their system by putting a network’s many disparate devices, segments, and endpoints within a few clicks of one another. They arere, therefore, able to take a holistic approach to both performance tweaks and security concerns.

Think of SDN as the difference between a security guard having to personally inspect or report to various building areas versus sitting in a control station full of monitors. They can observe the property as a whole and adjust cameras from one position. With extensive networks sprawling across many connections, intelligently employing SDN saves time and energy.

Use advanced network monitoring and analysis to inspect network performance

An IT team’s ability to maintain a network and react to issues before they result in downtime is only as good as their ability to keep a finger on the pulse of their system’s behavior.

Investing in quality monitoring that provides real-time analytics is critical to keeping a network working efficiently and informing actions related to anomalies or activities that may indicate a cyberattack or device malfunction.

Update equipment that is holding back network performance

Wringing every last bit of functionality out of old gear is a good use of funds and prevents waste. However, there comes a time in every piece of hardware’s life when it becomes a detriment to network performance.

Investing in updated equipment keeps your network up to current standards with the latest security features. It is likely to boost performance thanks to the newer gear’s increased efficiency, functionality, and speed.

Updating does come at a cost. Thankfully, large organizations with the means to do so often keep their systems on the cutting edge by purchasing new equipment and selling off hardware still capable of years of service.

By purchasing refurbished networking equipment from a trusted retailer, savvy admins can take advantage of deeply discounted prices for gear that is still current and has possibly seen little use. 

Maintain continual security training

While maintaining a tight technical grasp of a system’s advanced security features is paramount, hackers know that breaching a network is far easier if they can simply unlock the front door.

Social engineering campaigns and phishing scams that target workers unrelated to cybersecurity are commonly employed and have proven to be highly effective. While customer service representatives and email screeners are on the front lines, as they have to deal with a high volume of requests and may be easily tricked into accidentally opening a malicious file or turning over login credentials, even high-ranking executives have found themselves in the crosshairs.

All employees must be reminded regularly that they are often the only line of defense against a successful ransomware attack. Security teams should stay privy to the latest tactics used by criminals and keep the rest of their organization in the know with monthly security emails, mandatory training sessions, and continual reminders that encourage vigilance.

Formulate safety nets and network recovery plans

Every network at some point faces an issue that has the potential to hamper its ability to do its job. Whether it comes in a cyberattack or a system crash, admins need to create redundancies and protocols set into motion to prevent a collapse.

Employing load balancers keeps a network humming by distributing resources intelligently and preventing any single server from becoming overwhelmed to the breaking point. Load balancers are especially powerful if an organization finds itself on the receiving end of a DDoS attack, as a properly configured system will distribute the traffic influx across multiple servers instead of having just one take the blow.

Swift system recovery is also necessary. Getting your system back in the game quickly takes power away from ransomware attackers keen on holding your operations hostage. It allows your system to recover in the event of a crash.

Maintain backup data so it can be done quickly if a restore is required; store backup data in multiple secure locations and adhere to the 3-2-1 rule, which states that three copies of system data should always be kept. Two should be saved locally but stored on different media,ia and one should be kept off-site.

Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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Optimize network performance without sacrificing security