Firewall Management 101: Striking the Right Balance

It’s more than what gets through the firewall and what doesn’t — you need to find a balance with usability, visibility, and labor hours that both you and your clients can live with.

Firewall Management

Firewall management is a balancing act. Firewalls block traffic from IP addresses of known threats, stop unauthorized access to a network, and can include advanced threat protection. At the same time, the firewall must allow mission-critical information through so that it doesn’t decrease productivity or lead to missed sales or partnership opportunities. Managed firewall services give businesses relief from the burden of configuring, updating, and monitoring their firewalls so that they work effectively.

Managed firewall offerings make sense for businesses for several reasons. First, managed services providers (MSPs) that offer managed firewall services have capabilities that businesses typically don’t have. The solution you use to manage your clients’ firewalls include centralized control and intelligent monitoring, so you can leverage technology to keep a close watch on the firewall and its performance 24/7. Additionally, businesses often gain stronger protection from a managed firewall at a lower cost than if their internal team devoted labor hours and IT budget to it.

However, to deliver optimal firewall management services, MSPs not only have to strike a balance between what the firewall stops and what it lets through, but you also have to find a way to strike a balance in each aspect of your offering.

1User experiences

Your clients know they need cybersecurity, but they also need to maximize productivity and employee experiences. They’ll expect you to manage a firewall so that it doesn’t slow their teams down. Your clients will expect you to manage bandwidth so that harmful traffic and content stay out while user experiences are optimized.

2Managing growing complexity

With each system or application that your client adds, risk changes. You need to find a way to stay informed about the changes that your clients make to their networks and assess the risks those changes can create. Then, you must reconfigure the firewall so that risks are minimized, but critical traffic gets through.

However, change also creates the opportunity for errors, and firewall misconfigurations can lead to negative outcomes, such as compliance violations, particularly for your clients in the healthcare, finance, or merchants required to comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) firewall requirements. Firewall misconfigurations could also allow malicious traffic through that leads to a data breach or ransomware attack and downtime.

One way to overcome these issues is to use an automated change management solution that plans the change, assesses risk, and validates that changes occurred as intended.

3Visibility for your clients

One of the biggest challenges MSPs face is convincing their clients of value when their clients never experience issues that you come to the rescue to fix. Of course, the reason is that your services stop many of those issues before they start. You need to find the proper cadence of reports, preferably with automated reporting to save your team time, which shows the malicious traffic your firewall management services stopped and the downtime, costs, and reputational damage you prevented.

4Diplomatically telling clients they’re doing it wrong

When you begin providing firewall management services to a new company, using a rule tester may show numerous rules that no one can justify, but no one wants to remove since they could be necessary. You need to find a way to explain that more rules often mean more chances that the firewall is misconfigured and could be doing harm rather than good. Getting rules under control is a vital step toward optimizing security and usability.

5Minimizing false alarms

Depending on which firewall you have deployed for your clients, you may find that your team is fielding a high volume of alerts, most of which aren’t related to a serious threat. Your challenge is to find a way to minimize the time your team spends chasing false alarms but ensure they address every serious threat. Remember, the solution isn’t to make policies more liberal, which could lead to malicious traffic getting through. However, you may benefit from migrating your clients to a solution with support from artificial intelligence, which can assess anomalies and alert your team only to those that need further investigation.

Finding Balance in Consultative Firewall Management Service Sales 

Once you have optimized your managed firewall offering, your sales team needs to communicate its value to prospects. And like every other aspect of offering firewall management services, sales is also a balancing act.

For example, in addition to communicating what your solution does, you also need to stress that you can’t guarantee the business will never be the victim of a cyberattack. Firewalls have a specific job to do in a business’ security strategy, and if your clients don’t deploy other types of security solutions, such as email security, they can still be vulnerable. It’s vital to communicate firewall management’s critical role as part of a holistic security strategy and how your MSP team’s services can ensure it does its job optimally.

The market is filled with businesses that have recently transitioned to cloud applications and services but that may not have reconfigured or deployed new firewalls. As a result, their current security solutions may be misaligned with their activity. Seize the opportunity to provide managed firewall solutions and help them restore balance.