The Small Business Network Consultant is Dead

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Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant

As an IT infrastructure small business network consultant, I have had the opportunity to work on many small to mid-market corporate networks. I’ve seen everything from rock solid and secure (although is anything secure these days?) to shoddy excuses for a business network. My job is to help – to be able to look at both the big-picture functionality and efficiency of the network. I look at the details of what makes it work properly and securely – or not so securely (as I have come to find all too often).

Building redundancy into a client network

There is a certain confidence you get when you can see the data center, the physical security, and the underlying hardware on which precious company data is housed. Having the ability to look at that Cisco ASA firewall, and observe all the green lights on an EMC SAN or HP server array hard drives is satisfying. To know that I have built redundancy into the network and have covered all bases is something I thrive on. It’s a good feeling knowing my client’s data is protected.

Enter Cloud Computing. The inevitable revolution of providing “As a Service” for everything pushed aside the traditional “Small Business Network Consultant” — at least as we know it.

Bypassing the Small Business Network Consultant

A sad truth is many organizations (even startups) are now bypassing the small business network consultant and spinning up servers by reading directions on the hosting companies’ websites. OK, so not everyone can do this. But, if you are even slightly tech-savvy, you can get through some of the wizards, and viola – you have a server and you do not have to pay a consultant!! Pretty cool., huh? You have a web developer put up a database and file server in the cloud and your livelihood is running on it!

Well, on the surface that may have been a good, cost-saving business decision. But wait, there’s more ……..

Skipping traditional common sense security practices

There is a scary part to this scenario. Companies bypass traditional common sense security practices. They assume that the servers and databases they put up in the cloud are secure. Because the “network design and consulting” step is skipped, basic security principles are not followed. There are major assumptions about the underlying hardware and redundancy (or lack of) provided by the hosting provider. I have seen companies that are doing business with Fortune 100 companies that do not have any firewall or intrusion detection solutions. I’ve seen servers that have no business being public facing with dangerous and unnecessary ports open to the outside world. These servers are built with zero redundancy.

Companies have invested tens of thousands of dollars in application development and customization. Yet, they lack the methodology for backing up the images of these servers. The hosting company they are using provides various services including firewalls, imaging, and high availability. But none are implemented. Entire architectures have been built with significant “single points of failure”. The basic building blocks of traditional network security and efficiency are being skipped.  Unfortunately, this is not just one company, I see this over and over again.

Making decisions on Cloud infrastructure? An IT consultant is an asset!

We can’t just lay blame on the companies (well maybe). Are we a dying breed or has the Small Business Network Consultant not adapted quickly enough to the Cloud paradigm? We can’t just sit on that MCSE Certification from 10 years ago and hope none of our clients “catch on to this whole cloud thing”. Consultants need to educate themselves to truly consult in this rapidly changing environment. There is an immense amount of cloud-based infrastructure technology out there to learn and the industry is maturing quickly. Amazon Web Services has developed an entire curriculum and certification program around their services. Microsoft is modifying many of its partner competencies and certifications to adapt to its Azure and Office 365 service offerings. Many third-party solutions out there fill the gaps missing from the hosting providers.

Good small business network consultants are desperately needed to right the ships of many companies that have strayed into uncharted clouds. So, if you are an IT Consultant who has lost your way, get it in gear, start learning, and start consulting again! And, if you are a Business Owner or IT Director in the midst of making decisions on Cloud infrastructure, call your friendly neighborhood IT Consultant.

Long Live the Small Business Network Consultant – Be it Dead or Alive!

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