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Network Audits and Why You Need One

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EJ Phillips

A network audit is a helpful tool for any growing organization. Networks are ever-changing as users get added and deleted, software and hardware get updated or outdated, and devices get added. All these changes can affect network productivity and security. By regularly auditing a system’s network, one can be better able to pivot when changes are needed, be aware of where there are gaps in security, and properly budget for any changes that may be necessary. The goals of any network audit should include identifying areas in the IT infrastructure that could be improved upon and preparing for potential future investments in IT infrastructure that may be required.

What is a Network Audit?

A network audit is the process of mapping and inventorying your IT network in terms of hardware and software. It is a complex task that involves manually identifying network devices and elements. Oftentimes, automated network auditing tools are used that can help to identify the devices and services connected to a network. A network audit looks at all the hardware and software on a network, as well as auditing security documentation such as user accounts and permissions.

A thorough network audit will also look at an organization’s plans for data back up and disaster recovery and is a foundational element of proper business continuity. download business continuity eBook

When Do You Need a Network Audit?

Having a clear picture of when upgrades are needed can help your business properly plan and budget for IT upgrades. Upgrades can help boost your productivity as well as increase your security. But how do you know when you need upgrades?

Reasons Why Your Business Might Consider a Network Audit:

  • Outdated and Incomplete Inventories: As your business evolves, so will its technology needs. An audit can help you ascertain where there are opportunities for improvement as well as point out redundancies.
  • Upgrades and Refreshes: Often businesses get bogged down in the day-to-day operations and fail to pause to understand when systems need to be upgraded or replaced until it is too late.
  • Too Much Time Spent Troubleshooting: If your team members are spending a lot of their time reporting problems and being interrupted by system crashes and failures, chances are there are larger issues at play. An audit finds these gaps before they become worst case scenarios that cause outages.
  • Changes in Regulatory and Compliance Standards: Every industry has regulatory and compliance standards by which they must comply. This is especially true for the financial and healthcare industries. Network audits can be used by internal or external auditors to assess the compliance of an organization, particularly when it comes to the following critical standards: HIPAA, SOC1, SOC2, FedRAMP, PCI, FISMA, and NIST.

What is Included in a Network Audit?

There are several key areas of focus that are standard to any network auditing process. Many of the tasks require manual resources to complete, while others can be completed with the use of advanced network auditing and analysis tools.

Any network audit will begin with building an inventory of your organization’s existing network. This includes taking account of each device that is running on your entire network at each location. It is important to include both the physical and virtual infrastructure. It will also identify each of the services and service providers, including telecom carriers, MSPs, and other network providers the organization may be using, taking note of contract expirations. With this inventory in hand, an organization can better understand which devices are obsolete, outdate, or nearing end-of-life. For hardware this means looking at routers, switches, workstations, servers, and firewalls. For software, it includes looking at licenses, versions, and support.

A network audit should also look at your IT Security and things on the Cloud, as well as an assessment of your wireless network. It will include looking at your backup jobs and their locations, as well as a look at your disaster recovery plans and procedures.

It will also look at your current network configurations.

After the Network Audit

Once compiling all the data and information from your network audit, you should have a network audit report. In this network audit report, you will be able to look at the data, discuss its findings, and make decisions that enable your organizations to make wise steps forward when it comes to budgeting and maintaining network productivity and security. Your network audit report should include recommendations and actionable steps you and your organization can take to address any discoveries that were made in the network audit such as obsolete devices, outdated software versions, and underutilized network services. You will be better able to see where things are failing, and why, and therefore better able to make the necessary adjustments in the most efficient manner.

Whether you need to upgrade and modernize your IT network or increase IT Security, a network audit can be a valuable tool to help your organization grow.

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