SBC Secures Small Business Networks

Monday Nov 10th 2003 by Patricia Fusco
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The telecommunications company broadens its security portfolio to include an architecture evaluation service and vulnerability scanning service for small businesses with 100 or fewer employees.

Internet viruses, worms and other networking concerns are a greater threat to small businesses because many don't have security experts in-house. With this in mind, SBC recently introduced a pair of new security consulting services designed specifically for small businesses.

SBC is one of the first large telecommunications companies to offer outsourced security services priced and tailored for small businesses. These services are far less expensive than hiring and training an in-house IT staff, and offer protection beyond what off-the-shelf software can provide.

SBC's new consulting services provide a thorough assessment of small business networks, identify network vulnerabilities and develop corrective actions to fit the company's specific business requirements.

The first service, dubbed SBC PremierSERV Security Architecture Evaluation (SAE), identifies and addresses a range of network security challenges. A consultant will come in and identify vulnerabilities to a small business' network infrastructure, then develop corrective actions to fit the company's specific business requirements. The service includes a technical assessment of the company's network perimeter as well as staff interviews designed to evaluate the state of its information security program.

John Breen, SBC assistant vice president of engineering and consulting services, said the recent spate of viruses and worms like LoveSan and SoBig reinforces the need for smaller companies to protect their business continuity.

"Many small businesses need professional assistance to help them protect their business operations," Breen said. "Small businesses are especially vulnerable, due to their lack of resources and security expertise. With our competitive pricing, small businesses can afford to protect their assets the same way much larger organizations do."

The PremierSERV Security Architecture Evaluation service is an extension of SBC's existing corporate consulting service, only downsized to better suit smaller businesses. The service is performed by SBC consultants that scan up to 100 public Internet addresses, looking for security vulnerabilities the same way hackers look for unlocked doors to business networks.

SBC consultants also review one router and one firewall, looking for policy and configuration issues that might compromise the security of a business network. The resulting security assessment allows small businesses to better protect their information assets. The services costs about $5,000 and takes about three days to complete.

The second new security service for small businesses is far more inexpensive. For about $200, a SBC consultant will provide a vulnerability scanning of external-facing networks. SBC's Vulnerability Scanning Service (VSS) includes a report about any network vulnerabilities found and offers recommendations how to better protect small business networks.

Common Denominators
Small- and medium-sized businesses have a great deal in common with larger enterprises. One of the common denominators is communications — every business, no matter how large or how small, needs a telephone. And if there's a telephone around, then there's a telephone company behind the scenes connecting businesses with employees and customers alike.

It's this common thread that makes SBC believe it can help deliver hands-on support to small businesses. Breen said SBC brings an element of trust to building long-term relationships with small businesses.

"The small business market is traditionally is underserved when it comes to security consulting services," Breen said. "We're not just a phone company anymore, we're a voice, data and security service provider. We have a trusted relationship with small businesses — we're not here today and gone tomorrow."

Breen added that if SBC companies have traditionally been strong in the small business market.

"We serve nearly two million small business customers today," Breen said. "The security arena revolves around strong customer relationships. You're not going to ask somebody you don't trust to break into your network."

What's at Stake
The SAE and VSS offerings are the latest component of a comprehensive SBC portfolio of security services designed to meet the evolving needs of business and government customers of nearly any size. SBC's portfolio includes firewall administration and monitoring, intrusion detection, content filtering and virus scanning services.

Terri Mayson Williams, SBC associate director of managed security services, said the company is working to extend its corporate services down-market to smaller businesses.

"We're working to bring our entire managed service lineup to small businesses, Williams said. "By putting network security management into the hands of SBC experts, outsourcing can save small businesses time and money, while helping ensure that network security is maximized."

But selling managed security services to small businesses is no small fete. There are millions of small businesses in the U.S. Some seem to think it's a numbers game as to whether their particular business network is really at risk. As a result, many small businesses are not proactive about network security.

Williams said small businesses need to forget about the odds of being hacked, and think about what's really at stake.

"What would it cost your business if someone were to attack your network? What information would be lost? How many orders would you loose? Go ahead, add it up," Williams said. "Now how much will it cost you to protect your network? That's what's at stake for a small business."

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