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Taking the Unified Threat Management Approach to Network Security

Gaining a deeper understanding of unified threat management can help organizations protect their networks against security threats.

 By Jen Seitz
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Unified threat management (UTM) systems are a popular way for businesses to fight the ever-present, ever-evolving threats to their network security. UTM is an increasingly popular tool for small to midsize businesses looking to strengthen their network security prowess. It allows them the convenience of getting rid of onsite security wares as well as provides them with a centralized level of control. Benefits such as protection from combined security threats, including malware and attacks that simultaneously target separate parts of the network, make the unified threat management option worthy of serious consideration for organizations of all sizes and shapes in today’s threat-infused landscape. 

Get to Know UTM

So, what is a unified threat management system? It can come in the form of an A unified network hardware appliance, a virtual appliance, or a cloud service. Its sole purpose is to protect the business from security threats through simplifying, streamlining, and integrating its multiple security services and features.

Businesses in 2021 are facing myriad threats from malware to ID theft to ransomware to full-court network attacks. UTM can provide a central control center from which security can be monitored. It has become an increasingly popular tool for businesses who want to shave costs of onsite network security while understanding the increased need for visibility and centralized responsiveness. 

Unified threat management products are dedicated security systems that:

  • Perform security functions such as firewall, intrusion detection and prevention, antivirus, virtual private networking, etc. 
  • Provide layered, integrated cybersecurity protection from one centralized appliance.
  • Require less administration typically at a lower cost.

 Also read: Simplifying Data Management with Hybrid Networks

Understanding the Architecture of UTM

UTM has been on the radar of the enterprise level IT decision makers for some time because this type of system was (in the past) primarily used for hardware consolidation while also being easy to use and cost effective. As the unified threat management marketplace evolved, the top UTM vendors pushed out appliances that are truly ready to address the enterprise’s needs with features such as virtual local area network (VLAN) capabilities that can support a variety of security zones as well as offer load balancing and ease of scalability. 

Making the leap to a UTM system can take a level of commitment and effort for IT pros, who might be resistant to replacing standalone units that are performing well, shifting to one point of security control. The time to adopt a UTM approach may be right when a large organization has a need to consolidate its firewalls on a large network, such as when going through a merger or acquisition. 

Also read: The Ultimate Guide To Server Management Software

Unpacking the Benefits and Challenges of UTM 

Like any system, the UTM offers pros and cons that must be weighed in relation to your business’s needs. Some are universal and can be aligned with nearly all security objectives, however. Here is a list of UTM’s benefits and challenges:

Benefits

  • Simplifies your network. At the heart of the reason for going with UTM is simplification. The consolidation of multiple security appliances reduces time, breaks down silos, lowers learning curves for new staff and reduces cost/space/energy requirements.
  • Increases security and visibility. Having a view from the top is one of the most attractive attributes of the UTM system. Your centralized system will offer reporting tools, application filtering and virtual private network (VPN) capabilities — all designed to help you defend your network from the always-looming cyberthreat. The UTM approach allows you to take on security from a more proactive and efficient stance.
  • Elevates your defense. The unified threat maintenance system, as the name implies, offers a unified layer of security to prevent attacks. By defending multiple points from one central location, you are better poised to defend against today’s increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks. 

Challenges

  • All eggs in one basket. With one singular point of contact, your organization can be impacted if all services fail. Most enterprises utilizing a UTM system secure a standby that can be activated should a system failure occur.

  • Impact on performance. UTM has a lot of work to do managing all your systems, which can cause it to impact your network performance, especially during periods of heavy load. This can be addressed, but it is important to get the right size UTM appliance for your needs.

Also read: Utilizing Private Cellular Networks for Enterprise Connectivity

How UTM Evolves 

Cyberthreats continue to place a demand on IT decision makers. Tapping into technology that takes an all-encompassing approach to protection and prevention is key to surviving. Your UTM system’s security layers will certainly include a firewall, antivirus and intrusion detection, as well as ways to ensure you are protecting yourself through prevention analysis tools. You may also take advantage of additional security services that evolve with new and heightened levels of threats, such as:

  • Data. Data loss is one of the top cyberthreats businesses are facing today. UTM can offer prevention software to reduce this threat by preventing data leaks from occurring.

  • Real-time monitoring. Cyberthreats change and evolve over time, growing more and more sophisticated. Through real-time analysis, your UTM system can help you identify weaknesses and address them before an attack or threat takes place.

  • Network operations. UTM can also regulate your network’s bandwidth by helping to prioritize network traffic and keeping your system from getting overly taxed. 

  • Email filtering. Another helpful security tool UTM offers is filtering of spam, virus, or phishing-related emails. This lowers your chance of these types of common breaches. 

  • Web filtering. Web filtering is another key layer of security needed to prevent dangerous or inappropriate sites infecting your network through malvertising or malicious code. The filter tool can also help with restricting sites such as social media, gaming sites, pronography, etc.

  • App filtering. UTM puts the power of application filtering in your control by allowing you to blacklist or whitelist programs to protect your network security and its performance.

Unified threat monitoring is a viable option for creating a control center that protects your organization from threat. While there are rarely one-size-fits-all options, it is essential that you weigh out the nuances, costs, and commitment needed to switch to a UTM system. A key part of that analysis will include understanding what your current risk exposure is as well as what the impact a successful cyberattack could have on your business. 

This article was originally published on Feb 10, 2021
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