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Security Software Outsource
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Deciding to outsource network security is difficult. The stakes are high, so it's no wonder that paralysis is a common reaction when contemplating whether to outsource or not:
The promised benefits of outsourced security are so attractive. The potential to significantly increase network security without hiring half a dozen people or spending a fortune is impossible to ignore. The potential risks of software outsourcing are considerable. Stories of managed security companies going out of business, and bad experiences with outsourcing other areas of IT, show that selecting the wrong outsourcer can be a costly mistake.
If deciding whether to outsource security is difficult, deciding what to outsource and to whom seems impossible. Over the past few years, we've seen many different companies offering different capabilities under the general category of 'managed security services.' The field is so confusing that even the industry analysts can't agree on how to categorize the services offered. This company manages firewalls. That company offers periodic vulnerability scans. Another offers to manage security policies, or monitor the network, or install the IDS, or host the computers. Some of these businesses make sense, and some of them don't. Some will survive; some won't.
What to outsource Companies won't outsource everything, because some things just don't outsource well. Either they're too close to the business, or they're too expensive for an outsourcing company to deliver efficiently, or they simply don't scale well. Knowing what to outsource is key.
Medical care is a prime example of outsourcing that works well. Everyone outsources healthcare; we don't act as our own doctor. More to the point, no one hires a private personal doctor. And we all know what aspects of medical care we like: the ambulance arrives in seconds and rushes us to the hospital, a team of medical experts spares no expense in running tests to figure out what's wrong and in doing whatever it takes to cure us, and (for many people) the insurance company pays (all or most of) the bill. We all also know what aspects we don't like: ill-equipped and ill-staffed hospitals, HMOs telling us that we can't have that particular test or that a specialist isn't warranted, and getting stuck with an outrageous bill.
The aspects of outsourced healthcare we like involve immediate access to experts. Any medical emergency requires experts, and the faster they can pay attention to us the better off we'll be. The aspects of outsourced healthcare we don't like involve management. Our healthcare is our responsibility, and we don't want someone else making life and death decisions about us.
Network security is no different. Companies should outsource expert assistance: vulnerability scanning, monitoring, consulting, and forensics, for example. But they should not outsource management.
The industry has already proven this point. Salinas Network Services was the largest firewall management company. Earlier this year, it disappeared. There just wasn't a profitable business in managing firewalls for other companies. Firewall management is simply too central--companies outsourcing to Salinas had no choice but to treat their Salinas contractors as employees. And, for the money they were willing to pay, the companies demanded too much individual attention. Another example: Pilot Network Services offered secure network management. Its business was to host computers securely, manage all security devices, and test applications before putting them up on the network, effectively becoming the security management group. They're gone now too--same problem.
Chetan Sojitra, (email@example.com)
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