If you were to get a group of consultants and technicians into a room and ask them which Router/Firewall or associated security devices to use in your business you would likely get as many answers as there are people in the room.
That would also not necessarily be a bad thing as I’m sure each person could likely make a great case for going with whatever platform they were suggesting. As well each different hardware vendor would have a slightly different spin on things I’m sure and variety is always a good thing.
To look forward and protect your investment, however, I think there are some important questions you need to ask of your consultant when considering any solution for a function as important as protecting your network …
#1 : Is the hardware vendor well established and been in a business for a considerable period of time?
There are the “big gun” vendors out there like Cisco, SonicWall and Barracuda to name a few. There are also other leading edge and more “start up” vendors who have narrowed in on a particular niche that they specialize in and they make excellent products as well!
If you are purchasing a solution for your company however you must always balance the “known” vs. the “unknown”. When it’s a company who may have just started out there’s always inherent risk in going with a startup vs. a company that’s been around for quite some time.
There’s also the question of product maturity. A company that’s been around for quite some time will have also invested the time and resources into constantly developing their product and adding features, functionality and stability.
#2 : Does the hardware vendor have a family of products the interact and work with each other to provide a total technology solution for your business?
You may not be looking for this right away, but you may find some value in your firewall/router vendor also being to, perhaps, supply a dedicated e-mail security device down the road … or perhaps secure wireless access points … or perhaps secure remote access hardware … or other products, but you see where I am going with this …
A vendor that makes a whole “family” of products has spent the time to make sure they all play nicely together which can often save you time down the road if you were to expand the suite of products you want to use from that vendor because you have a need to fill.
#3 : Does the hardware vendor have an established technical support structure that can be tapped into by either the customer themselves -or- the consultant providing the solution?
This is where the bigger, more established, vendors start to pull away from the pack. Often times they will have a multitude of ways to get in touch when support is needed. Whether that be an online chat for a quick question, or a toll free number … or a ticketing system of plain old email, with the good vendors they will make it very easy to reach out to them when help is needed.
The good vendors will also have regular 8 hr / 5 day a week support for basic needs or if you business needs it they will provide full 24 hr / 7 day a week support.
#4 : Is the hardware platform proprietary and/or is the platform widely enough used that if the consultant supplying the solution were to no longer be available that you would not be alone?
This is another area where the bigger vendors shine. The bigger the vendor, often the more widespread the usage of their product is and thus the greater chance that other consultants or service providers would be available to jump in and provide support in a pinch. Or in an extreme emergency you the customer would be able to quickly get support while trying to find someone to help you longer term.
I have purposely avoided making a specific product recommendation because I don’t want this site to be plugging one particular vendor. I may have my own personal preferences but I certainly won’t criticize other solutions that meet the criteria mentioned above.
The bottom line is that you as the business owner should educate yourselves and ask these types of questions so you know that you are covered in the short, medium and long term with any solution you pick.
There are lots of great solutions out there from a number of different hardware vendors and the more you educate yourself the safer you’ll feel placing your trust in a solution and knowing you’ll be well protected and taken care of.
Are you currently considering a project like this and have questions or concerns about it you’d like to discuss?? Please leave a comment below …