Security-Focused IT Management on a Fixed Fee Budget

In 2018, a secure IT network means managing both your basic technology platform and the security that surrounds it.

But many small businesses struggle to afford both.

Sure, you might be able to afford a basic firewall set up, and antivirus software that protects known-infections from reaching your system. But managing IT to support daily operations and protect your system from increasingly sophisticated security risks go hand in hand.

Your investment in security is closely tied to the management of your IT network and requires more than just the cyber security staples of firewall and antivirus investment. In fact, there are so many facets to managing an IT environment that it’s nearly impossible for a single person or an over-tasked network team to stay on top of changes, new technology requirements and new security threats.

Why Managed IT Plus Managed IT Security Makes Sense

It might make sense to consider the pros and cons of a managed IT environment that is hyper-focused on securing the network and making sure your data is constantly under close watch. If you are a small business who wants to understand how to leverage technology to do more while securing your data to prevent from a disaster that could close shop – all on a fixed fee, predictable budget, then this blog is for you.

Even if technology is not your business, it is so deeply ingrained in every facet that it can greatly impact the way you operate. From being able to access information from the road, or at all, to ensuring the privacy of data and offering customers better service, how can you enable innovation and ensure uptime and accessibility without putting yourself at risk?

With the need to manage infrastructure, keep up with technological advancement and protect client data, staying on top of every aspect of managing your IT can be challenging. And for smaller companies without a dedicated IT manager, or only one on staff, it is impossible to specialize in every facet, be the jack of all trades.

Changes in the IT Landscape Mean Extra Security

As employees, customers and businesses become increasingly more reliant on 24/7 accessibility and innovation, worldwide spending on IT services is set to increase 2.1 percent to $929 billion, up from $910 billion the year before, according to a Gartner Group report.

The report explains that sixty-nine percent of small businesses will hire one or more IT service providers, and 39 percent of them expect to increase their spending.

Data from another research firm, Clutch notes that 59 percent of IT services have transitioned from the traditional break-fix model to a managed service contract.

What Does a Managed Security-Focused IT Services Provider Do?

Managed IT services, or an agreed upon subscription with an outside technology provider that helps manage network and software infrastructure, can include everything from ensuring the performance of applications to specific functions, like storage, backup and recovery, network monitoring and so much more.

A Managed IT partner that is security focused [read “What is an Managed Security Services Provider?”] goes beyond the standard MSP model to provide the following services:

  • Active Monitoring
    In this case, you look for an MSP that maintains a security operations center (SOC), which contains security personnel monitoring your network 24/7.
  • Security Awareness
    Specialized training turns your staff into a security force multiplier, able to detect, avoid, and report phishing emails that may contain malware.
  • Incident Response
    When an incident finally occurs, have a plan. Understand who handles restoring systems from backup, who reviews the logs, and who contacts the authorities. Then rehearse.
  • Data Classification
    Which of your data is most sensitive? Find out what you’re storing, and act accordingly. The most sensitive customer data should be covered under the strongest layers of defense.
  • Endpoint Security
    Endpoint security means making sure that a computer or laptop is protected both from external attackers and internal users who may inadvertently compromise the security of their machines.

IT Security and Regulatory Compliance

If your business is in an industry that has specific federal, state, or local regulations that speak to IT – like HIPAA, nationally or 23 NYCRR in New York City – working with a provider that understands those regulations can make the difference between meeting the requirements and getting fined.

At Link High, we understand that an IT security plan for different industries – from manufacturing to health care to financial services – are going to function differently.

At a base level, an MSP’s complete security solution will most likely incorporate some combination of physical, technical, and administrative security controls. These should include:

  • A firewall, which blocks unauthorized inbound network traffic
  • An intrusion detection system (IDS), which flags malicious activity inside your network
  • A SIEM (security information and event monitoring) system which logs all activity, flags known malicious software, identifies unusual network traffic, and lets administrators find out the source of an intrusion if an incident occurs

But the configuration of each of these components will differ based on industry-specific requirements.

Where Does Security Fit into My IT Plan?

Small businesses are regularly faced with this very question. They need to be certain that their investment in security works when it’s tested by attackers. Otherwise, they face data loss, loss of customer trust, and potentially fines from regulatory regimes such as HIPAA and PCI-DSS. On average, a small business has a 65% chance of failing within six months due to any major cyberattack. The IT systems you have in place might not be enough.

The counterpoint to this is that cybersecurity is expensive. Hiring extra personnel with cybersecurity experience is expensive. The hardware, software, and support agreements for security applications are expensive. Lastly, until you successfully deflect an attack, it’s almost impossible to know whether your investment in security is worth the cost. (That is, unless you hire a pen tester for regular security assessments, which are – surprise! – an added cost, unless they are a part of your managed service arrangement.) Check out Link High’s all-inclusive Managed Services and Security Management.

Look for a Managed IT Provider that Will Treat IT & Security as The Same Issue

True story: You’re a realtor. You’re used to getting regular emails from your clients. One day, someone with a legitimate-looking email address send you an email with an attached pre-qualification letter. It’s an innocuous-seeming word document, but when you open it, an attacker infects you PC. A few weeks later, the attackers have enough information about you that they can begin to target your clients. They manage to intercept a down payment, causing a new homebuyer to lose half their life’s savings.

This kind of malware doesn’t care about attacking a firewall – it goes right past it by disguising itself as an innocent email. As we’ve mentioned, a security focused IT provider won’t just erect a firewall around your server and call it a day. Instead, they’ll take steps to ensure that a ransomware infection won’t spread, even if a hapless employee clicks on an infected email. How can you guarantee that your service provider’s security will be that effective?

Does your IT provider have similar security procedures in place?

At Link High Technologies, we strongly believe that security and IT go hand in hand. This is why a Managed IT program should go beyond ordinary security requirements by ensuring that they protect endpoints as well as the perimeter. While other MSPs monitor networks and implement firewalls, a true security-focused MSP implements extra protocols to enhance safeguards and:

  • Protects network security by identifying and disabling open vulnerabilities
  • Provides greater system security with log-in and log-out event monitoring
  • Negates ransomware attacks by shutting down internet access if breach identified
  • Includes complex password policy in service plan
  • Renames accounts that are most often targeted by hackers

Although we follow a rigorous guideline for securing individual machines, our services – as they relate to both general IT and security specifically – are never one-size-fits-all. Whichever IT partner you choose to work with, you will want to ensure that they focus on both your IT and as well as your security posture to ensure your entire system is protected.

A detailed, in-person assessment of your IT and security posture (led by an engineer, not a salesperson) is essential before doing any work with new client. We do this because we know that this type of testing in advance will help us clearly see where you are and where you want to be – and how we’ll help you get there. Security-focused IT does not need to be mysterious. A clear report of where you are today coupled with a clear plan to help you get to where you need to be for BOTH your IT and security needs is the only way we work.

Building a useful and innovative technological capacity can be both difficult and expensive – but it doesn’t have to be. For more information, contact a Link High cybersecurity specialist today!