Why endpoint management is the key to a secure network

A close-up of the end of a network cable, with points of multi-coloured light behind it against a black background

It's one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today: technological progress has meant we have gone from at most a handful of computers per business, to a computer at every desk, to now a laptop for every worker, whether provisioned or employee-owned, and a computer in every pocket.

This trend isn't going to reverse, either. The growth in the use of IoT-connected devices, wearables like smart watches and technologies that haven't even been dreamt up yet, will mean more and more endpoints - all of which present a potential security risk to business systems.

In the security community, we talk about the "attack surface" the number of possible ways there are for a malicious actor to gain access to a system and each of these devices presents a unique opportunity for the hacker to get in.

In the face of this ever-growing attack surface, it can seem impossible for businesses to protect themselves against would-be attackers, be they criminals, state-sponsored or even internal. But this couldn't be further from the truth.

Effective endpoint monitoring

There are numerous tools out there to try and protect devices from being used as an attack vector in the first place, whether that's MDM for smartphones and tablets, anti-malware programs for desktop and laptop computers, or firewalls to protect the network as a whole.

While these tools are invaluable as a first line of defence and should definitely not be overlooked, when it comes to actually finding out if your business is under attack they fall short.

The only way to effectively discover whether a network is under attack and identify how the malicious actors are getting in is to track and monitor endpoints with specialist endpoint management software.

With these kinds of tools, IT professionals are able to detect and thwart attacks, as well as keeping software patched and monitoring for other suspicious activities.

The right tools for the job

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Tracking user-owned devices connecting to the corporate network needs a different approach to managing network configurations, for example.

As such, it's absolutely vital that businesses employ software that's broad-based but which specialises in a specific area of endpoint management.

A good example here would be the role of network configuration managers. They provide management and automation for routers, switches, firewalls and other network devices, can carry out bulk configuration changes and track unauthorised changes. This is ideal for ensuring security at the network level, as well as monitoring and flagging any potential malicious activity, but it's not going to be very effective in combating threats that come via users' mobile devices. For this, you need a tool that specifically tracks these devices and can identify them by user, MAC ID, host or vendor, as well as identifying rogue devices or users.

The importance of interoperability

Interoperability is one of the biggest IT watchwords today, with vendors of all types moving to make their software work with both other software makers' products and a wide range of hardware too.

The benefits of this for IT administrators is obvious while it's sensible to get all your endpoint management software from a single source, you want it to work with your existing infrastructure and software investments as far as possible too.

All in all, while each business will need to look at its own endpoint management needs individually, nowadays no organisation, large or small, can make do without an effective system in place. IT professionals should take time now to size up their businesses' needs and respond to them by putting in place the appropriate endpoint management software or risk leaving their network exposed.

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This is an independent article written by IT Pro, sponsored by SolarWinds MSP to celebrate thought leadership in IT. Learn more about SolarWinds MSP's Remote management and enjoy a free 30-day trial by clicking here.

Jane McCallion
Deputy Editor

Jane McCallion is ITPro's deputy editor, specializing in cloud computing, cyber security, data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Deputy Editor, she held the role of Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialise in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.

Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.