Traditional firewall network security devices filter data packets looking to weed out malicious traffic. In the modern era of Web threats, that's not usually enough, which is why networking vendor Netgear is updating its lineup of ProSecure networking appliances with a new software update that helps to control application usage across the network.
The new ProSecure 3.0 firmware provides application firewall capabilities for small organizations with as few as five users.
"The challenge today with small-and-medium-sized business is that they are using social media applications but they don't really have the expertise to understand how to secure those applications," Henry Fan, senior product manager at NetGear, told InternetNews.com.
It's no longer possible for businesses to simply block social networking sites in general, as there often are legitimate business-use cases for them. There are, however, plenty of non-legitimate use cases for social networking sites and applications as well. Knowing the difference between which sites are useful and productive for employees and which ones waste time is a challenge that NetGear hopes to help solve.
For example, Facebook has a lot of good, practical business-use cases for marketing and networking. On the other hand there are other applications on Facebook -- like Farmville -- that waste both time and bandwidth for a small business.
"The application firewall can help to set rules that apply at both a group and user level," Fan said.
Going a step further, rules should not be set based on an IP address alone, which can potentially be shared by multiple people within a small business. That's where role-based access -- a feature found in NetGear's application firewall controls -- comes into play.
"Small-and-medium-sized businesses are not like big enterprises; they don't want each application broken up into multiple levels, said Fan. "They want a simple user interface, and they want it integrated with the network rules that they already have."
Protecting bandwidth is another priority. While a small business owner might want to allow access to a certain Web application or service, he or she might also want to assign limits to how much bandwidth that resource can consume.
"Bandwidth can be set based on IP address as well as based on users and specific applications," Fan said.
The idea of doing bandwidth management, even for small business networks, is not a new one. What is new is the focus on applications as opposed to just looking at ports and protocols. Looking deeper into modern Web application traffic -- to understand which applications are being used -- isn't as easy as it once was. With the majority of Web traffic going out over a network by the HTTP protocol, simply monitoring and managing protocol layer security and access isn't enough.
"So now we're going one step further. Within HTTP we can see a particular application and even sub-applications within an application," Fan said.
The ProSecure 3.0 firmware is available as an update to most of NetGear's UTM appliances including the Linux-powered UTM9S appliance that was announced back in September of 2011.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|