Interview: RCM Technologies

As networks become increasingly distributed and populated with more and more devices and run disparate types of software, solution providers are finding network management a growing source of revenue.

Of all the services VARs provide their clients, perhaps none come as close to mission-critical as those that deal with a company's network issues, which are directly linked to the security of that customer. RCM Technologies (RCMT) provides such IT business solutions and professional engineering services to more than 1,000 clients in the commercial and government sectors. At the end of last month, RCM Technologies reported revenue of $54.5 million for the 13 weeks ended March 31, up from $47.1 million for the comparable period last year.

RCM Technologies senior networking engineers Mike Cadorette and Greg Herbst discuss with Senior Editor Jennifer Bosavage the trends in network management and how to make the most out of vendor relationships.

What are customers asking network management solution providers such as RCM Technologies for in terms of products and services? What do you see as a growing area for VARs in your market?

Mike Cadorette: RCM Technologies often gets requests for network infrastructure audits. Our clients are looking for an outside vendor to come in and evaluate their networks. In some cases, we find network administrators and network engineers are not as proactive as they should be, because they tend to be focused on day-to-day operations. They tend to fall into the 'we have always done it that way' rut and not concentrate on long term cost saving strategies.

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A CEO can get an honest answer as to how his network is doing by bringing in an outside professional who has more diverse experiences. A typical audit will cover security vulnerabilities, virus protection, data backup and recovery, spam filtering, critical system updates and a review of the network design. The deliverable is an analytical report on the current status of the network with a list of vulnerability concerns and the priority order in which they should be addressed. A CEO can then use this document to solicit bids for the work or as a project plan for his own IT staff.

What are common problems customers have in terms of network security? Are customers more proactive in getting in front of security issues or are they still waiting until trouble hits before pursuing security options they should have had earlier?

Greg Herbst: Network security needs to be addressed on many fronts and a proper design is multilayered, including hardware and software. In addition, a good policies and procedures manual must be enforced. Such a manual will include items such as forced password change policies and control procedures that allow users access to secure areas of the network both physically and electronically. Common problems customers are facing in regard to network security is keeping up with the solutions available. This includes simply maintaining already deployed systems or adding new security measures to an existing design.

In general, while companies are attempting to be proactive, the reality is that many times the day-to-day operational pressures take precedence. Enhanced security will sometimes sacrifice user convenience. It is important to get senior management support to deploy such policies.

What are the new trends in network security?

Greg Herbst: One of the new trends we are seeing is UTM [unified threat management] devices. These devices can scan on layer 7 of the OSI model and detect such traffic as instant messaging, IP telephony applications such as Skype, peer-to-peer file sharing programs such as Kazaa and many other traffic pattern threats to the network. Such devices, if properly configured at the Internet border gateway, can greatly reduce unwanted traffic at a very granular level.

Mike Cadorette: Another growth area we are seeing is the proliferation of IP based network security cameras. Our clients are using them to deter theft and to keep and eye on things while they are not there. All a business owner needs is Internet access and he can bring up a web camera and see what is going on at the office no matter where he is. The cost of the cameras has come down so much recently that a small business can very cost-effectively deploy enough cameras to watch all key areas of its business.