Effective management of your company’s firewall architecture can mean the difference between having an effective layered defense against cybersecurity breaches and becoming the latest in a long string of companies to have suffered a massive data breach. Many companies recognize that firewalls are a critical component of their network security perimeter—but there’s more to effective firewall management than having one at the point between your network and the internet.
Improperly-managed firewall services can lead to rules conflicts, gaps in the protection provided, and a reduction in network performance. However, many companies simply don’t have the right resources to manage their firewalls in-house. So, they turn to managed security service providers (MSSPs) to get managed firewall solutions.
What are managed firewall services—and why should you use them? Here are some things that you should know about managed firewall services and service providers:
1) How Much Managed Firewall Services Can Save You
One of the first questions many business owners have about hiring a managed firewall service provider is: “How much will it cost me?” This is a perfectly natural question to have. But, here’s the better question: “How much can using a managed firewall service save me?”
In any cost/benefit analysis, it’s always important to assess the risk of using or ignoring a particular tool or resource. In the case of not using managed firewall solutions, the risk can be quite high.
For example, how much productivity would your business lose if a poorly-optimized firewall configuration caused legitimate access requests to fail? Or, how much would it cost your business if an improper firewall configuration let a cybercriminal breach your network? According to Ponemon, a breach would cost you about $3.86 million on average.
So, when weighing the cost of managed firewall services, consider the price you might have to pay if you don’t have a well-managed firewall.
Another cost factor you should balance when considering a managed firewall solution is what it would cost you to manage the firewalls your company needs entirely in-house. Cybersecurity experts can be costly to hire, onboard, and train—with salaries easily reaching six figures a year before benefits. And, considering the shortage of skilled cybersecurity engineers, it’s a jobseeker’s market, not an employer’s market.
2) What Services You Get with a Managed Firewall Solution
When signing up with a managed security service for firewall management, it’s important to know exactly what kind of firewall services they’re going to provide. Some types of managed firewall services that an MSSP might offer include:
- Firewall Auditing Services. It’s important for a company to periodically audit its firewalls to check for configuration errors and other issues that may impact security and performance.
- Firewall Configuration Services. Will the MSSP help your organization choose, install, and configure the firewalls it needs to block malicious traffic?
- Firewall Monitoring and Alerts. Does the MSSP have firewall monitoring tools to help keep track of current rule configurations and event logs? Does the MSSP have a procedure for alerting you to major security events, such as a breach in progress?
- Co-Managed Firewall Services. Instead of taking over the management of the firewall entirely, a co-managed firewall service model has the MSSP work alongside your team to support and even teach your team about the finer points of firewall management.
Pinning down which services the MSSP will provide is crucial when you’re arranging a managed firewall service.
3) What Service Level Agreements the MSSP Can Set for Firewall Management
Service level agreements (SLAs) represent the expectations you can have regarding any kind of managed security service. With managed firewall services, it’s important to know what SLAs the service provider can meet, such as:
- Frequency of Firewall Rules Updates. Just how frequently will your MSSP check your firewall configuration and adjust the rules to remove obsolete ones that conflict with your business workflows and enable new ones to protect against more recent threats?
- Time to Alert for Security Breaches. How quickly will the MSSP notify you of a security breach against your network? Is the SLA measured in minutes, hours, or days? The faster these alerts are forwarded to your team, the better.
- Time to Contain a Data Breach. If the MSSP is expected to respond to data breach attempts on your behalf, how quickly will they respond to someone getting past your firewall? The faster a breach can be identified and contained, the less damage the attacker can cause. Here, the goal is to contain the breach and cut the attack off before the attacker can spread out to another system.
Many top-notch cybersecurity service providers will pair their firewall monitoring solutions with other solutions such as intrusion prevention systems (IPSs) to help further minimize the time it takes to respond to a security breach in progress.
4) Not Every Managed Firewall Solution is Right for Your Business
There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to cybersecurity. Every business has different needs—and the configuration of your firewalls will need to reflect that. One issue that many businesses have with managed security services like firewall management is that the service provider only does things one way—using the same firewall solutions, configurations, and cybersecurity strategy for every customer they serve.
This is less than optimal for your managed firewall services. Using a cookie cutter solution to cybersecurity can leave your company vulnerable to attack because of differences between your security needs and those of other organizations. In other words, what works for another business might not work for yours.
Instead of blindly applying the same managed firewall solution to every customer regardless of their needs, it’s important for an MSSP to leverage their experience to create a customized firewall configuration that provides optimal protection with minimal disruption for your company’s workflows.