Networking and connectivity

September 2011 IT infrastructure

The network environment is changing and security installers need to take note.

AxizWorkgroup Networking business development manager, Louis Helmbold says that networks need to be dynamic, adaptable and able to handle a host of users in search of information and applications within a split second.

Louis Helmbold
Louis Helmbold

“Connectivity revolves around speed and from an internal Ethernet connection, South Africa is on track. The problem, however, lies in the bottleneck that Internet connectivity creates as far as speed and the cost of it is concerned in South Africa and Africa at large,” says Helmbold.

More providers are slowly emerging with international connection initiatives such as Seacom, providing the means for Africa to become connected to the world. “The process will however take time and the access and connectivity landscape is set to undergo a major facelift in the next year or two.”

Developments in the networking and connectivity market have propelled network security into the spotlight in the last four to five years, with security being taken to the edge of the network. “The switch at the edge of the network assists to authenticate the user. The process previously occurred at the core of the network which posed its own risks, with research indicating that nearly 80% of breaches in security originate from an internal location,” says Helmbold.

He says that user profiles are being created on the central server, which allows administrators to place boundaries on the profile. “You can quite literally shape the identity of the user granting them access from specific locations, placing limits on Internet usage and directing their access to the network. It provides better mobility and enhances security measures substantially, effectively stopping users with malicious intent dead in their tracks.”

Another big development that has changed the network environment is the need for the users to be mobile, allowing remote access to the network. “Virtualisation is providing a means to save on costs and optimise usability. Previously the lifespan of a server was pegged at around 18 months to a year, but with optimisation and virtualisation a server lifespan can be extended for up to eight years.”

Networks have effectively become more intelligent by allowing access to specific aspects of the network. Previously a large part of the network intelligence was located in the core and has now been moved out to the edge of the network. The fact that there is more intelligence at the edge of the network enables higher security, end point mobility and integrity.

“A virtual desktop grants the IT manager more power to specify and standardise which applications are used. The connection simply serves as a means of refreshing the screen, which allows traffic on the network to be minimised quite substantially,” explains Helmbold.

End point integrity plays an important role, especially from a security point of view. “It is possible to run a small application on a user’s laptop that is initiated from the network as soon as they log in. It pinpoints possible threats and the switch at the edge of the network will place the user on a quarantine network if a threat is detected. The quarantine network will contain the necessary software to neutralise the threat quickly and effectively without hampering the user,” he explains.

It is however very important to design the network correctly from day one. “Choosing your vendor is also important as it will affect costs and performance. Some vendors will give a lifetime warranty and others will specify costs for software upgrades that can be quite substantial. Read the fine print and make sure it complies with the projected lifespan of your network and server from a cost perspective. Every client needs to be assessed in their own right and the network needs to be tailored to suit their specific needs,” says Helmbold.

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace. “I foresee the networks and devices we use today changing and becoming smaller, more mobile with a small device such as an iPad acting as a means of connecting to remote workspaces.”

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