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Everything in business is now more complex than ever. Customers are more demanding, competition is growing and new regulation — such as the GDPR — is complicating things further.

This added complexity has made it increasingly difficult to manage businesses effectively, and managing an enterprise’s network is no exception.

Enterprise networks have grown in complexity as businesses have responded to the challenges they face. Companies have implemented new technology to help them stay competitive, ensure compliance and meet growing customer expectations.

As a result, where networks were once built around a single data-centre, they are now a complex web of cloud applications, PCs, laptops, IoT sensors, mobile phones, tablets, access points — the list goes on.

Most IT teams would agree that all of these devices need proper management if the business is to stay secure and high-performing. Yet, few could claim full visibility all of the devices on their own network.

Why is this a problem?

The problem for IT professionals is that as networks expand it becomes increasingly difficult to retain full visibility of them. And without full visibility, it becomes almost impossible to manage them effectively. In fact, we have found that 25-30% of network equipment is unsupported, uncovered or obsolete.

With the proliferation of network-connected devices, this lack of visibility is understandable. But it doesn’t make it any less of a risk to organisational security or operational performance.

Poor visibility has resulted in many enterprise networks containing rogue devices ‒ devices that the organisation has no awareness of, but through which the organisation’s sensitive data still flows.

Without sight of these devices, companies are blind to the vulnerabilities that they represent. Every device on a network is a potential entry point for cybercriminals – and cybercriminals always choose the weakest target.

Invisible network devices can’t be monitored, patched or updated, meaning they are often full of security vulnerabilities. Weaknesses which cybercriminals are all too ready to exploit.

A good example is the critical vulnerabilities found in Cisco’s Nexus 9000 fabric switches recently.

It’s not all about security

The risk of cybercrime isn’t the only potential impact of poor network visibility.

It sounds obvious, but unmaintained kit breaks more often. And if a company doesn’t even know that a network device exists, how are they supposed to maintain it properly?

In many cases, single device failure isn’t disastrous. However, the impact of unmaintained kit doesn’t always stop at the device that failed. A single failure can bring the whole network down, increasing damage exponentially.

Not only does this downtime result in unexpected maintenance costs, but it also costs an organisation in lost productivity, reputational damage and even lost customers, in some circumstances.

A further consequence is that IT teams spend their time and budget being reactive — responding to unexpected issues rather than proactively preventing them.

But this reactivity trap doesn’t only hinder effective network management, it also prevents teams from implementing strategic projects — such as cloud, AI and Blockchain initiatives. Without which, IT teams and the networks they manage will stagnate, whilst the businesses they are meant to serve grow increasingly complex and demanding.

These are just two illustrations of how poor network visibility can impact both security and performance, but there are countless others. Take for example the lack of vendor support for unmaintained kit, the impact of environmentally inefficient kit going unnoticed or the cost of regulatory non-compliance if a network leaks data.

All of these should act as further reasons to strive for full network visibility, but how? How can an IT team fully understand the vulnerabilities in their networks?

What can you do about it?

In reality, the answer to this question varies from organisation to organisation. After all, every organisation’s network is different. But what is clear is that a full assessment of the organisation’s network devices should be the starting point.

If this sounds like an arduous task, it’s because it probably will be. However, there is plenty of technology out there to lessen the load, take monitoring tools SolarWinds or Spiceworks for example.

Both of these tools are a great place to start when trying to gain better network visibility, but often lack detail around specific aspects of the estate. To achieve full visibility, organisations are likely to have to opt for more concentrated, in-depth assessments. Here at SCC, for example, we help companies gain visibility of the Cisco devices on their network with SCC Assure: Discover – A free assessment service which takes an in-depth scan of the Cisco devices on your network, highlighting those which may present a threat.

But whatever tool you use, the goal should always be the same. To understand what devices are on the network, remove any that represent a threat and put controls in place to maintain full network visibility in the future. Only with this proactive approach will IT teams and Network Managers have the time to innovate, and enable their organisations to stay competitive, remain compliant and delight their customers.

If you’d like to register for a free, no-obligation SCC Assure: Discover assessment you can do so by clicking the link below. You’ll get a comprehensive report of all of the Cisco devices on your network – including those which may present a vulnerability.

Register for your free assessment now

Tags: free network assessment, network visibility, scc assure