Maintaining the integrity of networks and data is a key consideration for every organization. With the digitalization of almost every aspect of business, robust enterprise network security minimizes the impact of cyberattacks -- especially as guarding against them protects a company's operations while safeguarding its competitiveness in a quickly evolving marketplace.
What is enterprise network security?
Enterprise network security is a broad term covering a range of technologies, devices and processes. Some experts define it simply as a set of rules and configurations that protects the integrity, confidentiality and accessibility of data in an enterprise network. Achieving this goal involves deploying both software and hardware technologies to limit vulnerabilities and respond quickly when confronted by security issues.
The goal of any security system is to stop as many attacks as possible, while being alert to and capable of responding quickly to breaches. Because of the inevitability of successful cyberattacks, many users give higher marks to products that allow them to respond quickly and effectively to attacks, even though another product may be better at stopping most attacks from happening.
Enterprise network security product types
Firewalls are often the first line of defense, but network security hardly stops there. Access control, threat intelligence, intrusion detection and prevention, data loss prevention, email security, endpoint security and patch management all play a role in protecting the network and the data on it. And because advanced persistent threats and insider threats are the biggest danger to corporate secrets, behavioral analytics - studying user behavior for signs of an active intruder - has become a critical component of network security.
Tying all that together is a security information and event management (SIEM) system, which can bring all security and log data into a centralized console for easier detection and response.
The Importance of robust enterprise network security
Complete and total IT security isn't possible, so organizations need to mix and match those security technologies and more to provide the optimal level of security for their organization within cost constraints. But with the average cost of a data breach approaching $4 million, any security solution will pay for itself in trouble averted.
Scaling to network size
Unlike the monolithic corporate computer systems of the past, most enterprise IT environments today consist of large, interconnected systems, servers and mainframes supporting thousands of individual devices often connected via multiple wired and wireless networks.
From the mainframes to the individual devices, every single node presents a potential point of attack. As a result, the larger your system, the more surface area it exposes to hackers who can use its complexity to conceal intrusions, exploit potential backdoors and remain undetected in the infrastructure.
Managing personnel fatigue
The complexity of both corporate systems and the attacks against them can make it hard to sort legitimate security events from ordinary activities. IT security personnel can get overwhelmed if they aren't equipped with the necessary tools to make sense of the data, so solutions that can identify and prioritize the most critical threats while reducing false positives are essential for reducing stress on security staff.
Top network security products
These are some of the best network security products we've identified from our exhaustive top security products series. See the links above for more of our top products picks.
Fortinet FortiGate Next-Generation Firewall
Key takeaway: Strong security, and the obvious choice for existing Fortinet customers.
Outstanding security and performance
Effective integration with other Fortinet products
Relatively easy implementation
Good user experience
Support provided by channel partners
Some features cost extra
FortiGate next-generation firewalls offer multilayered security and deep visibility in a high-performance package. The line achieves this performance by using purpose-built security processors that deliver scalability and low latency. NSS Labs rates its security at 99.3% effectiveness with a performance of 6,743 Mbps.
Additionally, FortiGate provides end-to-end protection across enterprise networks at just $2 TCO per protected Mbps. The firewalls run FortiOS, which ranks well in usability and ease of use. They also integrate well with other Fortinet security products, such as FortiSIEM, to provide even more effective enterprise network security.
Trend Micro TippingPoint Threat Protection System
Key takeaway: Real-time traffic inspection in a standalone package.
Integrates with many Trend Micro tools and third-party products
Easy to deploy and manage
Separate cloud solution
The Trend Micro TippingPoint intrusion detection and prevention system provides real-time protection from malware while ensuring network availability and resilience and enhancing network performance. It does this by identifying and blocking malicious traffic using its Digital Vaccine threat intelligence security filters.
TippingPoint can be deployed on networks with no IP or MAC addresses and covers the entire vulnerability footprint instead of specific exploits. A single 1U form factor unit delivers 40 Gbps of network traffic inspection throughput, and is stackable to 3U for up to 120 Gbps performance. TippingPoint’s main drawback is its need for a separate cloud solution.
Palo Alto Networks PA-Series Next Generation Firewalls
Key takeaway: Palo Alto offers best-in-class performance and solid core features that often make it a shortlist candidate for larger organizations with looser budgets.
Robust cloud features
Rich management features and very good user experience
Relatively easy implementation
Middle-of-the pack value
Large, infrequent updates
Great features and unmatched performance give Palo Alto next-generation firewalls a strong following. The firewalls achieved 98.7% security effectiveness with performance ranging as high as 7,888 Mbps at $7 TCO per protected Mbps, according to NSS.
The firewalls deliver a wide range of capabilities that make managing network security and traffic easier, including the ability to classify all traffic, support for policy enforcement and cyber threat prevention through Content-ID and WildFire sandboxing. The former blocks threats and limits unauthorized data transfers. The latter uses a static and dynamic analysis in a virtual environment to identify zero-day exploits, unknown malware and advanced persistent threats. Palo Alto’s enterprise firewalls run on PAN-OS.
Forcepoint Cloud Access Security Broker
Key takeaway: Effective CASB for large and very large enterprises.
Full inline proxy and API-based capabilities
Support for any cloud application
Integrated blocking capabilities
Incomplete integration with other Forcepoint products
Users complain of poor technical support
Forcepoint CASB supports any cloud application on the market through its complete range of inline and API-based capabilities. It provides deep visibility into thousands of user activities, enabling security teams to analyze user behavior and apply data loss prevention strategies accordingly. Toward that end, it can integrate well with on-premises DLP systems. Forcepoint CASB deployments can stop exfiltration of data for both managed and unmanaged devices in BYOD settings.
Key takeaway: A full-featured encryption solution for protecting files, email and shared data.
Complete range of encryption solutions
Integrates with Symantec DLP scan data
Delivered as a software package
Can slow down some systems
Relatively poor user experience
The Symantec Encryption product line includes endpoint, email and file encryption solutions. It offers capabilities such as full disk encryption, cloud data encryption, and message encryption on Apple iOS and Android devices. These capabilities make it useful both in traditional settings and organizations with BYOD policies. To enforce encryption practices, it supports policy enforcement integration.