Maintaining network security is a critical part of any business’ IT operations. Whether you have an internal department managing your network, or are working with an IT support and Managed IT services provider like Solid Systems, being able to specify, monitor, and restrict the users and devices that have access to your network is essential. That’s why network management should form the foundation for any company’s IT security.
When your teams are working from a single office, maintaining network security is relatively simple. But as soon as your teams start working from home or using their own devices to access your network, your company faces a greater security risk. Every device has the potential to compromise your network if it isn’t fully patched and updated. Every user’s credentials put your business at further risk if they aren’t correctly secured.
So how can you ensure that your network’s security is maintained when embracing remote, BYOD, and hybrid work environments? The answer lies in Network Access Control.
What is Network Access Control?
Network Access Control, or NAC security, is all about ensuring that only the right users and the right devices can access your company’s resources. Tools like Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Intune help you to do exactly that, but they are only part of the solution. Any business needs to have processes and protocols in place for managing the users and devices that access their network. Without this, every time a new team member joins the company, or whenever an employee gets a new cellphone, it will lead to havoc.
Network Access Control solutions encompass these protocols and procedures as well as the tools that you use to manage them.
A Network Access Control system is hardly a new solution. Businesses have always needed to ensure that their teams have access to the right information. It’s just that, with networks having to encompass those who are working outside of the office as well, NAC solutions have had to become more robust.
Why is it Important to have an NAC Solution?
There are two main reasons why you need to have Network or Internet Access Control: security and efficiency.
The threats that face every business are growing at an exponential rate. Every minute of every day sees companies around the world being attacked through phishing, through ransomware, through malware that has been downloaded onto machines, and through login details that have become compromised. And these are only a handful of the challenges that businesses face.
You need to have tools available that let you monitor your network to ensure that none of these threats have infiltrated your business and that no cyber attackers have access to your information. In order to do this, you need to keep track of the users that should be accessing your network and data, and the devices that they use to do this. That way, any unauthorised activity can be detected quickly and stopped before irreparable damage can be done.
Network Access Control allows you to do both – keep track of your users and their devices, and alert you to unauthorised login attempts on unfamiliar devices. This means that even if one of your team members’ login details does become compromised and used in a cyberattack, you’ll be able to curb the threat in its tracks, restricting the access that the attacker has, and protecting your data.
While security may seem like the primary motive for maintaining access control in network security, there is a more fundamental use for network admission control. Whether your teams are working in an office environment, working from home, or a hybrid of the two, you want to make it as easy for them to do their job as possible.
Imagine that there is a specific file you need. A list of clients, perhaps. If that file is sitting on an on-premises server, you’ll likely easily be able to access it from your office PC. But what if you aren’t in the office? Or what if you need it on your laptop instead of your PC? Would you still be able to access the file? And how long would that take?
Part of the value behind Network Access Control is that you can make the files, apps, and data that your teams need to work efficiently and effectively as easy to access as possible. It could involve incorporating cloud solutions into your network management, having a simple protocol in place for adding new devices, or using a tool like Azure Active Directory to manage user permissions.
This makes for more productive environments to work in and results in both reduced downtime and reduced frustration from every employee within your business.
How can Network Access Control Solutions be used for your Business?
Network Access Control is an essential part of any business’ IT security. But there are particular cases where companies find that the types of network security that NAC solutions offer are invaluable:
NAC for BYOD and IoT
With the concept of employees using their own devices becoming more popular, the value of managing access to your network has increased.
Before, businesses could manage the patching, updating, and upgrading of software and hardware components on work machines without a problem. They owned the devices – they could essentially do whatever they wanted with them! But in a BYOD workplace, your company doesn’t own the devices. Your employees do. And it’s far more difficult to enforce regular security updates.
Network Access Control provides you with a platform for checking the security and status of the devices that can access your network, and ensuring that devices which do not have the latest security updates installed are either required to install them before accessing your data or have restricted access. This ensures that devices that could compromise your network security are kept at bay.
BYOD also means that more devices are going to be accessing your network than you may have had before. It’s not only a single PC that needs access to files, apps, and data. Each employee could be accessing your network from a laptop, a cellphone, and a tablet simultaneously. And that’s not even taking into consideration the Internet of Things (IoT) devices that they (and you) might use – from Alexa to smart fridges and smart TVs… Even your office vacuum cleaner could benefit from connecting to the company WiFi!
This opens up an opportunity for attackers to access your network from an unfamiliar device without being detected. NAC authentication puts a stop to that. It allows you to track which devices should have access to the network, what they do, and which users are using them.
NAC for Guests and Collaborators
Perhaps you have an auditor coming into your office for a month or two at a time. Maybe there’s a partner with who you want to share information. Being able to share your network with guests and collaborators can come in handy. Network Access Control allows you to do this with ease, providing guests and collaborators with the access that they need for as long as they need it, without impacting your network security.
You can provide limited access to specific files and folders, or allow for full access for a limited amount of time. You can even track which files are being accessed to ensure that private and confidential information remains entirely off-limits. And setting these restrictions is as easy as adding a new user or new device, especially with the help of tools like Azure Active Directory. Add Microsoft Intune into the mix, and you’ll even be able to remotely wipe any of your data from the guest devices after they have left.
Network Access Control as part of Managed IT Services
Now that you have a better understanding of what Network Access Control is, and why it’s an important consideration for your business, you may be wondering how best to implement it. I’ve mentioned a couple of excellent tools from Microsoft – namely Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Intune – which can form the foundation for managing access to your network. But when you’re looking for a company to manage these tools, to take care of your network access management so that you can focus on your core business, there’s no need to look any further than Solid Systems.
We are an IT company in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Sandton, and a world-class IT support company wherever you may find yourself globally. We have almost two decades of experience in helping businesses to manage their email security, cybersecurity, and network security. Our team of IT pros is ready to help with all of your IT needs as part and parcel of the managed IT solutions which we offer, and they’re just a message away. Get in touch with us today.