Achieving compliance in today's ever-changing enterprise network

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Today's businesses are subject to more rigorous IT compliance and security requirements than ever before. For IT engineers and managers, adhering to such requirements laid out by external regulatory mandates and internal corporate policies—while also delivering IT services with the highest levels of availability, performance, and scalability—is no easy task. This is made even more challenging given that security and compliance are not one-time projects, but ongoing processes that must be maintained. And, with enterprise IT getting more dynamic with each day and regulatory standards becoming more stringent, a holistic and strategic approach to network configuration and change management (NCCM) and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) has become a must.

Simply put, NCCM is about minimizing the impact of network changes in order to:

  • Increase efficiency
  • Enhance security
  • Reduce risk
  • Decrease downtime
  • Enforce policies
  • Meet compliance

As enterprise networks grow in both size and complexity, the difficulty in managing all the configuration and device setting changes that are happening throughout the IT infrastructure grows exponentially. Network operation teams are inundated with volumes of device configuration data and logs that that need to be analyzed and compared to determine what changed, when, and by whom. Unauthorized or unscheduled changes can not only violate compliance mandates, but can lead to costly device outages and network downtime.

In addition to NCCM managing change, SIEM assists with compliance, not only in improving the security posture of the business, but also in providing automatically generated reports to assist with regulatory compliance.  SIEM lets users:

  • Collect log files
  • Store log files
  •  Analyze log files
  • Correlate events and logs in real time
  • Respond automatically to suspicious behavior

Historically, NCCM has been a manual process that has been both time-consuming and at the mercy of human error. It has required network admins using Telnet or SSH to log in to each device separately to make changes from vendor-specific command lines. And, if the changes are wrong, device failure and subsequent downtime could result as the admin frantically tries to figure out how to get the device up and running again. At this point, the admin is hoping he has a recent and working backup config file, which might not be the case since the process of performing nightly manual backups of each device can easily be forgotten or “put off until tomorrow.”

Trying to configure and maintain network devices manually, as well as track, audit, and report on all changes to those devices, is extremely inefficient, error-prone, and labor-intensive. It becomes all the more difficult in a multi-vendor, multi-admin environment. In fact, it's virtually impossible to successfully accomplish all these tasks manually.

With SIEM, watching changes for suspicious behavior is important. Customers tell us adding users, adding users to groups, and elevation of privilege to Domain Admin are changes that must be watched carefully.

For truly effective network change and compliance management, automation is key. The sheer amount and complexity of tasks required to manage today's enterprise networks necessitates automation. Manual processes just aren't sustainable, but automation alone isn't enough. Network admins also need consolidated, single-pane-of-glass management and visibility into their environments. And, of course, the right levels of access control have to be in place.

When evaluating NCCM and SIEM solutions, organizations should look for the ability to:

  • Discover multi-vendor network devices
  • Configure devices using standardized templates
  • Automatically back-up device configurations
  • Rollback failed configurations
  • Deploy bulk changes and updates
  • Track network changes and activity
  • Provide role-based access control
  • Leverage workflow approvals
  • Detect violations in real-time
  • Audit network configurations
  • Enforce compliance policies
  • Generate compliance reports
  • Maintain updated device inventory
  • Analyze and correlate events and alerts across IT to provide actionable information
  • Take action in response to suspicious behavior

The end goal of network configuration and change management is to provide a stable, secure, and compliant network in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. As one would expect, this has become quite the challenge with today's ever-growing and ever-changing enterprise networks, in addition to businesses' ever-evolving and ever-increasing security and compliance needs. The good news is that there are an expanding number of NCCM solutions on the market that provide the tools necessary to be successful in this endeavor.

Further, the SIEM improve security and assist in compliance efforts, providing detailed reports at the log and event level for thorough visibility into the network and systems in IT.

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