Tire-Kicking Tech: Top Five Technologies Being Tested This Year

Our survey identified the top technologies queued up for testing this year. Here’s how five companies are already reaping the benefits.

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3. Content Security/Control

Although very few companies operate without at least antivirus software and a firewall these days, companies around the country are testing an emerging set of products that lock down crucial information, including antispyware, encryption and Web site blocking tools, as well as e-mail scrutinizers.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. A financial services firm, for example, needs to police outgoing e-mail content to make sure that stockbrokers don't release insider information. Hospitals are concerned about access to patient records. For Able Body Labor, a temporary help agency in Clearwater, Fla., the challenge was determining how to set up a security system that would be easily replicable in its rapidly expanding number of branch offices — now up to 130 in 15 states, with many more on the way.

The company had started implementing a virtual private network connecting all its offices in 2003 and wrapped up the project in early 2006. But securing that network was a problem, especially since the remote locations didn't have their own IT staffers. Each site had its own appliance to scan e-mail and control which sites employees could access.

"We were managing more than 120 firewalls manually," says CIO Paul Zimorski. "Making any changes meant logging onto each one individually, so adding a single domain to the whitelist would take a week."

Able Body took security a step further. The company now filters its e-mail content through a SonicWall Inc. PRO 4100 appliance located at headquarters. It has set up a series of message rules and blocks certain types of attachments. To lock down Web access at the remote offices, the company recently put together a shelf unit consisting of a SonicWall TZ 170 device with a wireless access point, power strip and extension cord. The system controls the Web sites users can access and the length of time they can visit them by assigning sites to groups in Active Directory. The whitelists of company-approved Web sites and actual access controls are handled by the SonicWall devices.

The company now has a number of preassembled and wired units that it can ship out to the branch offices, where employees can just plug them in without any special training. With these in place, modifying the whitelist, which used to take a week, can now be done in 20 minutes.

"Using these devices for content security will not only save us time by being able to centrally manage the devices, but also the time we spend fixing problems caused by every end user having a wide-open Internet connection," says Zimorski. "I am keeping about 10 on the shelf so that if one goes bad or we open a new office, we can just fire one out the door."

Words of Wisdom: Considering a similar project in 2007? Zimorski offers this advice: "Stay consistent, get expert help instead of trying to do everything yourself, and make sure the system is easy to maintain."

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