Over the past few months, a recurring theme here has been the need for more small businesses to smarten up their act when it comes to deploying security techologies. Because, even if you think you're too small to be the focus of an attack, the truth is that just isn't true.
There is a dizzing array of options, which doesn't make the situation any easier, and believe me I am actively pitched by many of the vendors selling those products. So, I usually request that they come up with a small business using their technology to serve as a testimonial.
So, in that spirit, this update relates to a discussion I had with a customer of Sophos, which makes a series of productsion for endpoint security, encryption and mobile device management -- including the Sophos Unified Threat Management (UTM) product (acquired when Sophos bought Astaro).
As the name suggests, unified security products combine all of the different security defenses that a company might consider using, including network firewall, virtual private network infrastructure, endpoint protection, email scanning and content filtering.
Why would anyone choose that approach? That was the main focus of my chat with Terrill Gilley, Worship & Missions Pastor for the NorthRidge Church & Christian Academy in Tampa, Fla., which has been using the Sophos product since before Astaro was bought. For perspective, NorthRidge runs a network that supports about 52 employees. It also has a guest network that is shared by another 200 or so people, including students who bring their mobile devices into the academy's classrooms.
Here are three reasons that NorthRidge decided to go with the Sophos platform, when it was no longer possible to support its previous security technologies:
1) It was easy to keep the organizations two networks separated, which is important because the internal and shared guest networks have very different security profiles. Plus as you might imagine, the nature of NorthRidge's business means that it has some pretty rigorous content filtering requirements for the school's computer lab. "We need to make sure we stay above reproach," Gilley said.
2) The Sophos device helped ease the bandwidth bottlenecks that are common with security products. Sometimes keeping a network secure can meet tradeoffs in latency, but that hasn't been the case with Sophos UTM, he said.
3) At about $2,000, the Sophos hardware was more cost-effective for NorthRidge than buying individual pieces of technology that require custom services to deploy, integrate and maintain. You'll notice that Gilley's title doesn't include "IT" in it, but he is (in effect) the church's technology guru. So he needed something that would be simple to use, a factor that was considered when looking at prices. "It saved us costs in other areas," Gilley said.
Sophos UTM isn't the only game in town when it comes to unified security, but its simplicity is definitely something small-business owners can appreciate.