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Network transition: 3 scenarios where an expert consultant can help

January 27th, 2020 by

Today’s enterprise networks exist to support the business. Whether the imperative is driving a superior customer experience, enabling business growth through acquisition or any other number of goals, the business looks to the network (and those behind it) to advance its vision.

New year, new opportunities

The IT leader, then, is the chief enabler of the business strategy. It is their job to ensure other leaders and business units fully understand and appreciate what it takes to bring the strategy to life, whether it’s a relatively small upgrade or a massive transition with big implications for cost, time and effort.

Big or small, isolated or far-reaching, all growth-oriented organizations are undergoing some level of digital transformation. And while no two organizations—or their networks—are ever exactly alike, in our work with leading organizations, we’ve seen similar challenges come up again and again. Here are 3 scenarios in which an expert consultant is well suited to help navigate a successful network transition.

Scenario 1: You need to make critical infrastructure decisions (but don’t have all the answers)

Is your network optimized for superior application performance? Is it compliant with industry regulations like PCI DSS or HIPAA? Is it vulnerable to security breach? Without a crystal clear picture of what your network looks like today, it’s tough to know—and of course, build—what’s required.

IT leaders must know their network like the back of their hand: its strengths, weaknesses, gaps and opportunities. However, many organizations lack the in-house resources (be it headcount or expertise) to effectively evaluate network performance, security and compliance, or to implement corrective actions to get the network up to snuff.

An outside consultant (operative word being “outside”) brings an objective perspective. They’ll ask crucial questions and conduct audits that identify network challenges, and then recommend designs to meet current and future needs. They can take a look under the hood and assess existing security infrastructure, networks, applications, vulnerabilities and threats. And they can evaluate and validate industry requirements to ensure the network continually checks all the required compliance boxes.

Scenario 2: Your migration is losing traction, or worse…

Many IT leaders have had the all-too-scary experience of being elbows-deep in a project when, suddenly, “the wall” appears. It might be a physical wall—a 30-foot concrete wall that wasn’t accounted for that now requires a re-engineering of the network design. Or it might be a logical wall—the firewall, the security requirements that are being driven by a new application that another team already purchased… without IT’s knowledge.

A network migration has a lot of moving parts, but there is simply no time for a timeout. Superior network performance demands optimized deployment and installation, from the wiring on up. Yet many organizations are short on specialized expertise, and in-house IT resources don’t have the time (or often, the appetite) to focus on gathering installation and cabling requirements or performing wiring installations.

An expert consultant can support site configuration as well as equipment installation and roll-outs. They’ll assess the impact of assets like CPE, IP phones and mobile devices that access the network. And they can ensure application performance, plus make recommendations for cost optimization. Translation: Less worrying about tactical stuff. More time focusing on strategic priorities.

Scenario 3: You’ve got a behemoth on your hands

It’s big. It’s complex. It’s high-visibility. It’s a full-scale network transformation. Migration projects can be daunting if you don’t have a handle on the network, solutions and support needed to bring the strategy to life. But large-scale transitions don’t have to be overwhelming. As the old saying goes, there’s only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

Getting it right starts with requirements. What are the current business realities, and what does the business need from the network to reach its goal? From there, it’s about designing, deploying and managing a solution that serves the business’s current needs and future ambitions.

An experienced and qualified consultant can help gather business requirements and design a customized solution that’s tailored to the organization’s needs. If it makes sense for the IT team, the consultant can take the lead on the network project life cycle from beginning to end and act as a single point of management, helping move projects on the IT roadmap ahead faster while allowing internal teams to focus on the core business.

Advance your vision with Professional Services from Windstream Enterprise

From requirements gathering, to cloud-optimized network and communications solutions, to implementation and ongoing management, Professional Services from Windstream Enterprise can help you achieve a network that delivers against your business strategy. Our team of diverse experts can help deliver a needs-based network strategy and design that’s compliant and secure, freeing up internal resources and enabling business and IT agility.

To learn more about how Professional Services from Windstream Enterprise can advance your vision, visit our Solutions page or contact our team.

4 Ways to Secure Your Healthcare Network Against Unauthorized Access via IoT Devices

July 9th, 2018 by

Most healthcare IT organizations have done a great job of tackling the security challenges posed by Wi-Fi access for patients and mobile BYOD connections for clinicians. Hospitals and clinics now face their greatest security challenge to date – the explosion of highly beneficial but potentially problematic IoT healthcare devices.

There’s no denying the benefits of IoT in healthcare. From monitoring patients and medical assets to tracking anything that has to be measured, network-connected devices bolster both patient safety and clinical efficiency. Devices as simple as sanitation gel dispensers can alert administrators when they need to be refilled so that nobody has to remember to check, and gel is always available.

But this raises two crucial questions. First, how much thought did the gel dispenser manufacturer – and the manufacturers of every other network-connected device – put into security? And secondly, how can IT ensure that none of those dozens and dozens of network access points enable unauthorized network access?

Simply put, the proliferation of IoT devices in healthcare comes with a proliferation of potential endpoint security gaps. Those gaps can all be closed with the following four steps to IoT security.

Step 1: Take a complete IoT inventory

For IT professionals to secure all endpoints, they must be aware of all connected devices. Start with a survey of every department to develop an inventory listing of networked devices. Survey outreach is a good time to get everyone thinking about the importance of device security. How many clinicians are aware that a sanitation gel dispenser could provide a pathway to sensitive patient information in a records system?

Step 2: Create a mapping of devices and networks

Understanding which networks are connected to which devices is central to assessing the risks posed by IoT technologies. Ideally, you should put IoT devices on a separate network preventing access to sensitive data on the enterprise-wide network. In addition to informing risk assessment, creating a complete map can help optimize connections, aiding in prioritizing and allocating bandwidth accordingly.

Step 3: Publish an IoT security policy

A thorough IoT security policy will designate which devices are allowed on networks and the proper procedure for involving IT. It will likely become clear from earlier steps that just because a manufacturer makes a device networkable, it doesn’t necessarily mean it should be allowed on a network. All IoT devices should be configured to meet your security requirements before being connected to the network. A “plug and play” setting, which makes setup a breeze, creates a potentially dangerous situation. Be sure to address all departments that have IoT devices or might have them in the future.

Step 4: Remediate security gaps and enforce policy

Finally, it’s important to identify any gaps in the new security policy. What are your plans for ongoing inventory and management? Can you quickly separate existing, known devices from new, unknown devices connected to the network? Remediate any gaps uncovered, and remember to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis. It’s surprising how easily new devices can find their way to a network connection – even the most carefully crafted and presented security policy will require enforcement when it comes to IoT.

If you need help

Most major network service providers offer professional services that can assist with the auditing and remediation functions described above. Whether you engage such services or choose to do it yourself, it’s important to take a thorough approach to IoT security, buttoning it up as tightly as all other aspects of healthcare IT.

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