Propel Your Business into the Future with a Network Assessment from Applied Technologies

 

The Frankenstein Network

 

Most of us are familiar with the story of Dr. Frankenstein, a determined young chemist who brings a creature to life that’s not quite what he intended to create. While his intentions were good, the ultimate reality of his creation brought a host of unintended consequences.

 

At Applied Technologies, we’re often reminded of Dr. Frankenstein and his creation when we examine plant floor networks.

 

The Current State of The Plant Floor Network

Building a plant floor network and adding components along the way isn’t quite as straightforward as it may seem. Like Dr. Frankenstein, those on the plant floor know all of the fundamentals and have a pretty good grasp on the various switches and components that are plugged in. However, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that isn’t immediately obvious to those who are in charge of managing the system. These things can impact the operation of the network in other areas and result in unexpected situations. In fact, when we plug in to get a handle on the traffic moving through the plant floor network, it’s often astonishing. Most don’t have a full understanding of how much traffic is moving at any one given time, or a full inventory of everything they’re dealing with.

What causes this high volume of traffic? We’ve found that most industrial networks have been built in a flat, open manner with components plugged in over a span of decades as additional functionality is required. Everything is running on the same highway, and all machines can see every other machine on the network. It’s a situation that isn’t necessarily “broken” – like Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, it can “walk and talk” – but it sure does leave the door open for problems. Think of the 1,000-plus devices that are plugged into your network. When left to play in the same space, they not only can cause unintended consequences for other devices on your network, they can open up security issues that you may not be aware of.

If this sounds like your plant floor network, you’re not alone. And if you’re inclined to think that this isn’t applicable to your network (everything is working, so it’s fine!), you may be surprised to learn what’s happening behind the scenes. In fact, an ad-hoc, “Frankenstein” network is the norm in most situations. The Applied Technologies team has worked with industrial clients for more than 30 years to build and maintain organized, efficient networks. The process begins with a comprehensive Network Assessment.

 

When You Should Start to Consider a Network Assessment

Companies understand the need for more efficient design and management of their networks. They are looking for greater efficiency, increased security, and the ability to leverage data to progress towards their overall business objectives. The Frankenstein network doesn’t work for them. It won’t drive them to the future or allow them to excel in a competitive environment.

Many customers begin thinking about the health of their network at key points of their existence. Perhaps they have a new device or switch that needs to be plugged in. Maybe there is a piece of software or hardware that’s due for an upgrade.  Regardless, in most cases, they don’t have a strategic plan or full picture of the network. Some know this, and others don’t. We’ve found that there are four predominant mindsets in the management of plant floor networks:

  • The unaware … these are the folks that live in bliss. Their network is working, so everything must be OK.
  • The confident … those who believe they know exactly what is happening in their network, and what will happen when that next device is plugged in.
  • The worriers … they know something catastrophic will happen one day, and they’re anticipating the pain that they’ll go through when it does. They pray every time a new device is plugged in that nothing will go wrong.
  • The duct tape masters … they’ve become the experts of putting in a little patch here and there to keep things running. In most cases, duct tape masters have been around for a long time, and no one really knows where all their patches are. Which may be OK today, but when they retire or leave the company, they take that knowledge with them.

The Network Assessment from Applied Technologies is the primary step in pulling back the curtain on your plant floor network. Through this process, we can show the unaware and the confident all the things they may not know. We give comfort to the worriers and identify all the patches made by the duct tape masters over the years. Our goal is to help our customers build their networks so they can be efficient, productive, and excel in their industries.

 

The Network Assessment covers the following areas:

  • Network traffic analysis
  • Inventory of all devices, switches and hardware installed on the system
  • Security assessment to identify vulnerabilities
  • Network stability
  • Recommendations for network segmentation

With the insights delivered through the Network Assessment, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about how to scale your network moving forward, how to get the greatest level of efficiency, stability and security, and how you can begin to leverage smart manufacturing in your business.

Every company can benefit from a Network Assessment.  It really doesn’t matter your company size, number of years in business or your industry.  No company is immune to problems if they don’t have a well-designed and documented network.

Don’t wait until something breaks to assess your network. Contact Applied Technologies today at 636.274.8000 or sales@appliedtech.pro, and start seeing the benefits of moving away from a Frankenstein network. Once you uncover the possibilities, you’ll experience a great, worry-free ride.

NetApp HCI Meets Public Clouds to Simplify Storage and Processing

 

In order to compete in today’s business environment, companies strive to identify ways to simplify processes to create efficiencies and speed up their go-to-market time.  While there are many process and technology enhancements that can contribute, there is a fundamental way that organizations of all types and sizes can change the way they approach their IT infrastructure – that solution is hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), taken to the next level with NetApp Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure (HCI).

 

NetApp HCI is a revolutionary way to manage data and applications leveraging an on-premise cloud environment. NetApp HCI has changed the traditional model of hybrid cloud storage and made it possible for a company to have a system that combines on-premise and cloud functionality in the three major public Clouds.  It serves as the fabric that holds all of the pieces of your overall architecture together, allowing for seamless movement of data and workflows from one to the next, and back again.

 

How is NetApp HCI fundamentally different?

A NetApp HCI can scale compute and storage independently. Users now have the power to run applications and maintain efficient storage space needed for the workloads. Previous HCI architectures combined those capabilities, which consumed valuable resources both from an infrastructure perspective and a financial one. The traditional architecture was clumsy; NetApp HCI streamlines infrastructure solutions and makes application environment options simpler and more efficient.

A user can mix and match different storage nodes without making any changes at the compute layer and vice versa. This is incredibly powerful when it comes to expanding storage capacity or compute resources one node at a time. NetApp HCI was developed for large enterprises, so it can be scaled in a large corporate scenario, but it is accessible enough to be easily and efficiently deployed in smaller organizations and even the Edge. This makes NetApp HCI an agile technology that any industry can benefit from regardless of size or scope while achieving enterprise-grade levels of resources, performance, and protection.

Why utilize NetApp HCI?

Any corporation facing a new technology development or looking to expand their storage or computing capabilities can benefit from NetApp’s hybrid cloud architecture:

  • Speed … the system provides the highway for information to move more quickly through your organization. This means that your internal and external customers have the data and services they need more readily available as there is a smooth conduit in place to facilitate on-premise and cloud communication – regardless of what cloud your data and workflow reside in. NetApp HCI delivers an elastic hybrid cloud infrastructure that enables customers to start anywhere, run anywhere, and manage everywhere from Edge, to Core, to Cloud.
  • Scale-on-Demand … need more storage space but not more processing power, or vice versa? You can quickly scale your system, on your terms, to meet your specific needs. Due to the modular nature of the system and included automation, it is quick and easy to add or reallocate what you need as your requirements change ultimately reducing TCO.
  • Security … you can have the best of both worlds with a cloud-operational environment located on-premise, maintaining a hybrid cloud, while still securing your applications with built-in security features such as multi-factor authentication, data at rest encryption, and FIPS 140-2 Level 1.
  • Control … there can be layers of complexity when it comes to fully managing your IT in the cloud. You can gain the control and governance you need with a NetApp HCI solution.
  • Flexibility … NetApp HCI is multi-cloud and supports multiple hybrid-cloud solutions such as those from VMware, Google, and RedHat delivering an agile foundation for your private and hybrid cloud infrastructure.
  • Guaranteed Performance … in a traditional environment, you may find processes competing for resources at the same time, in different areas of your production workflow. The NetApp architecture allows you the visibility into these resource demands in order to allocate them for maximum speed and efficiency while guaranteeing performance for all of your applications through three-dimensional QoS capabilities.

 

How is NetApp HCI Implemented?

Discovery & Goal Setting: The discovery process begins with a meeting to determine your company’s overall objectives and the storage and compute needs that will be required to achieve those objectives. The goal of this process is to gain an understanding of the resource requirements needed in the environment. The team leverages assessment tools to gain a thorough picture of what is already running in the environment, what modifications may be in order, and what the key objectives from leadership may be. This might include striving for a reduction in complexity or cost, or a move to a new environment for example.

Easy Implementation: The time needed to implement is dependent on how large the cluster is, but in general it is a streamlined and consolidated process depending on the following factors:

  • If a customer already has VMware in the environment and the network is determined to be in appropriate working order, HCI can attach to an existing vCenter, so it can shift to the new infrastructure with VMotion.
  • The only migration required is moving the VMs to the new hardware, which is done through VMware’s typical mechanisms.
  • If there is no VMware present, the process entails more planning in order to implement.
  • After implementation, if you need more compute or storage, you may easily add either (or both if needed) through the NetApp Deployment Engine. The beauty of the system is that you can scale independently, using the new available nodes which are easy to absorb into the cluster.

Partner Collaboration: Partnerships are key in ensuring the success of NetApp implementations. NetApp Partners, such as Applied Technologies, hold the valuable experience and intimate knowledge of each customer’s needs, goals, and challenges. These insights allow for the creation of a comprehensive technology plan that can include the NetApp HCI solution working in concert with other hardware and software platforms for maximum performance and advancement towards the customer’s goals.

NetApp HCI’s innovative design combines the best methods for managing data and applications. You no longer need to pay for extra storage or compute you don’t need while still benefiting from an enterprise-grade infrastructure with guaranteed performance. The bottom line is, NetApp HCI creates more flexibility, eliminates complexity, and drives costs down while accelerating new services for faster time to market speeds.  As a preferred NetApp partner, Applied Technologies will help you understand how your company can leverage the system which is scalable, delivers the speed you need, and allows for the security and control you’re looking for.

To begin the conversation contact us at sales@appliedtech.pro or call 636.274.8000 to discuss your business requirements with one of our Account Managers or Practice Leaders.

Make Your Smart Manufacturing Initiatives Even Smarter

Assessments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selecting the right partner for your Network Services is a crucial choice.

 

Without one, your manufacturing network can become the sticking point for the rest of your business, leaving the IT and OT sides of your network poorly connected and your network open to threats. It’s not just a matter of finding an IT company, especially now that so much of the shop floor now have cloud-based technology.  It’s about finding a partner that can help you operate more efficiently and impact the bottom line.

 

A partner should be able to integrate your enterprise and plant floor networks seamlessly, provide the remote access users need, and protect your company against security breaches.  At Applied Technologies, we have a team of industry-certified professionals to find the best and most cost-effective solution for you.

 

Finding the Right Solution

Applied Technologies’ Network Services start with facility and security assessments. We offer several assessment options to identify areas that may expose your business or have an impact on your processes. These options include security, access (network), and structured cabling assessments.  After we review both IT and OT infrastructure, we provide our analysis with a high-level summary so you can effectively prioritize the most important first steps.

Security

Security assessments are particularly important. As the possibility of cybercrime continues to increase, security attacks are inevitable. However, with the right security services, a network breach doesn’t have to be. We partner with you to ensure we understand your policies, practices, and processes as we design solutions to keep your business secure. Our security options include:

  • Compliance: Includes Payment card industry (PCI), International Standards Organization (ISO), and more
  • Assessments: Includes IT risk assessment, penetration testing, social engineering, and threat analysis
  • Information Technology: Includes next-generation firewall (NGFW), advanced malware protection, and email
  • Incident Response: Includes detection, testing and training, digital forensics, and more

Visit the Applied Technologies website for a complete list of our security options.

Remote Access

Every network is different, as is the level of remote or mobile access your users may need. What remains consistent is the importance of keeping that remote access safe and reliable. We have extensive experience in both designing and implementing core and edge devices, as well as the cable plant design needed to support them.

Structured Cabling

Assessing the physical set up of your network is just as important as assessing how the network could be compromised and attacked. The Applied Technologies team works with manufacturers to plan, implement, and manage structured cabling solutions, including assisting with developing requests for RFPs. Whether it’s third-party testing, finding the right contractor resources, wireless network design, or power protect, Applied Technologies will be with you every step of the way.

Are you ready to get started with network services to make your manufacturing network safer and more efficient? Contact us today to get started and find the best solutions for your company.

A Network Security Assessment Is Your First Step to Defend Against a Cyber-Attack

Security Threat

 

The statistics around cyber security depict a challenging landscape for businesses of all sizes. Hundreds of millions of consumers have been impacted by data breaches over the last year, and the cost for companies to recover from an attack can skyrocket into the billions of dollars.

 

While the big companies such as Equifax, Target and Marriott have garnered headlines in the evening news, small and medium sized businesses can find themselves to be even more attractive targets for hackers looking to access data. The resulting downtime, loss of revenue, damage to the brand, and potential fines can be impossible to overcome. In fact, the National Cyber Security Alliance reports that 60% of small businesses close their doors within six months of a cyber attack.

 

Regardless of your company’s size, it’s important to acknowledge that you are a target. Applied Technologies can help you be prepared, leveraging our knowledge, resources, and best-in-class solutions on your behalf. Before any of that can take place, the first step is a Security Assessment to identify your current situation and risks, and catalog hardware and software to develop a plan of action that’s best suited for your needs.

 

The Two-Pronged Approach to the Network Security Assessment

The first step involved in your security assessment may involve a diagnostic assessment. This process works very similarly to what your local mechanic might do when diagnosing the health of your car.  Your car, or your system in this case, are plugged into a special diagnostic apparatus that can read what is happening, identify problems and provide guidance as to what components might need attention.

This uncovers a great deal of information for the Applied Technologies team to assess. It can point us in the direction of key vulnerabilities, and provide a reporting of network function, as well as hardware and software tied into the network.

The second piece of the security assessment is a more in-depth analysis of your network, and this process is customized. Our work may take as little as eight hours, or as much as several days:

  1. Fact finding …. Applied Technologies meets with key stakeholders to learn about your specific concerns and goals.
  2. Assess … Our engineers work with your team to assess the network for a more detailed overview of the system.
  3. Workflow … Many breaches are the result of the human factor, so we’ll work to understand security policies and practices within your organization.
  4. Report … Once our work is complete, we’ll provide you with a full report of findings and recommendations, while collaborating with your team to prioritize and create a plan of action. This plan could include security hardware, or managed security monitoring services from Applied Technologies, a topic we’ll cover in our next blog.

What You’ll Learn in Your Network Assessment Report

Each network and each customer’s goals are different, but there are many common things that may be included in your report:

  • Security Risk Report … Executive-level report which calculates a proprietary Security Risk Score along with summary charts, graphs and an explanation of the risks found in the security scans.
  • Security Policy Assessment Report … A detailed review of the security policies that are in place on both a domain wide and local machine basis.
  • Share Permission Report by Computer … Comprehensive lists of all network “shares” by computer, detailing which users and groups have access to which devices and files, and what level of access they have.
  • Share Permission Report by User … Organizes permissions by user, showing all shared computers and files to which, each has access.
  • Outbound Security Report … Highlights deviation from industry standards compared to outbound port and protocol accessibility, lists available wireless networks as part of a wireless security survey, and provides information on Internet content accessibility.
  • External Vulnerabilities Full Detail Report … A comprehensive output including security holes, warnings, and items that can help make better network security decisions, This is an essential item for many standard security compliance reports.
  • Anomalous User Login Activity … A report using mathematical modeling and proprietary pattern recognition to highlight potential unauthorized users who log into machines they normally do not access and at times they normally do not log in.

There may be more (or different) reporting metrics included on your specific report to match your system setup, user behavior, and goals.

 

The Security Journey

The assessment is your first step along the security journey, and we at Applied Technologies make it easy and accessible for you to get started.

Having a security benchmark and identifying your network vulnerabilities it a vital first step in identifying potential risk.  After your initial assessment is completed, we can help map out a security strategy for your company.  This can include conducting follow-up assessments to determine if identified issues have been corrected (to) addressing additional security requirements uncovered by the initial assessment.  Our in-house Applied Technologies team, in coordination with our network of technology partners and leading manufacturers of security technologies can help you obtain a level of security that supports industry standards and best practices.

Don’t Be a Statistic

It’s often said that it’s not a matter of if you’ll experience a breach – it’s a matter of when you’ll experience it. The key is to be prepared to minimize the likelihood of major damage to your company, your reputation and your customers.  Contact us today to learn more.

 

Sources:

https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/01/cyber-security-statistics-small-business.html

https://www.denverpost.com/2016/10/23/small-companies-cyber-attack-out-of-business/