Organizations face many challenges when it comes to keeping their operations secure and driving the most value from their next-generation firewalls (NGFWs). How to overcome these challenges is one of the most common discussions I have with customers. They often don’t have the personnel resources to tackle these important but mundane tasks. One fix is to lean on CDW’s Managed Services to take care of them.

In this post, I’m focusing on three NGFW management activities: monitoring, change management and patch management. These responsibilities may not be the most exciting, but they are essential to ensuring that your business stays secure and operational.

1. Monitoring

Collecting data on the performance and availability of NGFW devices is critical to understanding if your users and customers can conduct business. Our services monitor our customer’s devices, collecting metrics related to availability and capacity data. This monitoring allows visibility into the NGFW devices to make sure they are operating correctly. These metrics are collected from the firewalls or their management systems and, when there is a problem, generate alerts directly into our ticketing system for our team to resolve as quickly as possible.

One of the key metrics we keep track of is device high-availability failover. My team will often receive an alert that an NGFW device failed over to its backup device. This alert might be overlooked by a busy IT department because there is usually no impact. However, the CDW team will investigate to see whether the failover was a symptom of a software bug or a hardware issue. The goal is to ensure that there is no future impact on the business.

2. Change Management

No IT system is a static environment; each is continually changing as new applications are deployed internally or in cloud environments. NGFW devices are on the frontline for needing changes whenever there is a new application. That’s because every time a new application is added to the network, security polices need to be updated to allow access to the application. CDW’s Managed Services teams assist customers in making necessary changes to the NGFW devices, translating customer’s business needs to the right technical change.

This is not always a smooth process. An issue we often see is that the vendor’s documentation is missing or incomplete when it comes to what ports or protocols an application uses. If documentation exists, we will deploy the recommended rules. Often, we troubleshoot with the customer to determine what wasn’t listed to make sure the new application has the access it needs. Otherwise, we will work to determine which port(s) and protocols the application needs to operate. Throughout this work, we use an ITIL-based change management process to make sure we do not cause an unexpected problem for our customer’s business.

3. Patch Management

Vulnerabilities are a fact of life for all IT systems we deploy in our networks, and it is crucial to have a robust patch management process. Patching security devices ensures that the tools we use to protect our networks do not become a way into the network. With both large and small NGFW environments, it can be a struggle to keep track of the various security alerts and the best software for the NGFW devices deployed by an organization.

CDW Managed Services monitors security notices from Cisco, Palo Alto Networks and other vendors to be aware of alerts that affect our customers. Using the vast experience of the engineering teams at CDW, we evaluate the updated software versions to make sure they are stable for a customer’s deployment.

A good example of this process occurred back in May 2019 when Cisco released 14 vulnerabilities. Our teams worked together to investigate each of our customers’ environments and map out the best version of software for their NGFW devices. Then we executed upgrades to the devices, ensuring minimal impact to each of the customers’ business. These upgrades were no small task to perform on hundreds of devices in numerous customer environments, each with unique business needs.

Why You Should Consider Managed Services

Minding the finer details is critical to the operation of NGFW devices. If you’re short on staff or want to have your team focus on more strategic support for the business, it might be worth looking into CDW’s Managed Services to assist with your NGFW workloads. If you need help with managing your NGFW systems or any other technologies, reach out to your CDW sales team.

Learn more about CDW’s security solutions and services.

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