What to look for in a good managed security service provider

Considering outsourcing network security to a managed security service provider? Here are some useful questions to ask.

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In today’s ultra competitive and global marketplace, 24/7 global connectivity and service availability has never been as important. The challenge of ensuring business continuity is further tested by the growing ingenuity of cyber criminals and the potential disruption of business from security breaches.

To maintain a competitive edge businesses are constantly looking for new ways to reduce operational costs and streamline internal processes.

One idea that is frequently discussed by IT Managers is whether to outsource elements of IT infrastructure that don’t provide company advantage, to reduce capital expenditure. For example, one area that is often outsourced is network security through a managed security service provider (MSSP).

Outsourcing network security to a MSSP can provide not only cost efficiency in comparison with in-house solutions but can also provide smaller organisations with access to specialist dedicated security resources they might not have in-house.

So far so good, how should an organisation choose a MSSP?

Initial research

Organisations must remember that the ultimate responsibility for network security still lies with them. It is therefore crucial that businesses do the right research into potential MSSP’s to understand if they are a good fit for your needs. You will primarily need to look at the size and expertise of the organisation, the technologies they use and if they employ a detailed Service Level Agreement.

Organisational reputation and skills

The first step is to assess the reputation and expertise of the MSSP. Find out who their current customers are and if they face similar challenges to your organisation. This will give an indication of whether the MSSP has the required knowledge to deal with the security threats your organisation faces and if they have the procedures in place to mitigate and deal with any breaches that occur.

Taking this a step further, businesses should find out how high a MSSP’s staff turnover is. If the turnover is high then this may raise questions over the level of experience your security team will have to manage the threats to your network.

Technology

The most important consideration when choosing a good MSSP is the technology and security solutions they use within their portfolio of services. Solutions should be compatible with existing equipment and infrastructure, which will minimise unnecessary network complexity. Anything else can lead to complex infrastructure and ultimately increase the risk of configuration mistakes which are a significant cause of breaches.

Businesses should also ensure that they ask for a list of all the technologies the MSSP uses. Do they have the latest security technology and, therefore, the capability to anticipate and adapt to future threats? As a minimum, the MSSP should be using proactive security solutions such as firewalls that can scan encrypted traffic as well as Intrusion Prevention Systems that actively scan the network for anomalies and malware.

Virtualisation

For businesses that have all or part of their network virtualised it is crucial for them to determine if the MSSP provides virtual security solutions.

It is a common misconception that virtual networks are automatically protected by existing physical security devices. This however is incorrect and can leave the virtual environment vulnerable to attacks. Traditional physical security appliances will not be able to see traffic that resides within the virtual environment meaning viruses can easily spread throughout the network undetected by the security team.

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