In my time browsing the Cisco website and also from watching Cisco presentations, there are a couple of different methodologies and lifecycle approaches, subscribed to by Cisco that can help any enterprise customer. Let's find out how these methodologies can help you.
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How can Methodologies help you?
The Wikipedia defines a methodology as:
- "the analysis of the principles of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline",
- "the systematic study of methods that are, can be, or have been applied within a discipline" or
- "a particular procedure or set of procedures"
All technology consulting companies use methodologies to ensure that they delivery quality to their customers. For example, a common consulting methodology is “plan design, build, test, implement, & audit”. Of course there are tasks that go along with each of these phases. If you follow this approach to a project, chances are, that you will have a much better chance of success. That is because you took time to plan, design, test, and audit. Usually, IT guys (or really anyone with not a lot of time, like IT guys) tend to go only to build, and then implement.
Some out there might wonder how this applies to you and especially to Cisco Routers and Switches. Bear with me here as I will get to that.
Over time, I have seen a number of different systems, offered by Cisco, that could be applied to help just about any business out there, whether you are using Cisco routers and switches or not.
The Security Wheel / Security Lifecycle
The first of Cisco's systems that can help the average user is the Security Wheel. I believe that a picture really is worth a thousand words so take a this graphic of Cisco's security wheel:
Graphic Courtesy of Cisco Systems
Just as consulting companies have a consulting methodology that could be used a help us have better success at projects, Cisco has the security wheel which can help us have better success with network security.
For example, for admins with limited time, the approach to network security is usually just to “respond” when something happens. Or perhaps it is just to “secure”. If something goes down, maybe you just react. What the security wheel prompts you to do is to think about security from a more holistic approach. Look at the wheel. In the center is the corporate security policy. All phases of security related to the security policy. There are defined phases to network security. You don't make changes in the secure stage until you have tested in the test stage.
What is most important about the security wheel is that security is a never ending process. There is no start & finish. This is an important think to know about security. You don't ever “check it off your list” and say that you are done.
Cisco's isn't the only company or organization to offer this approach. Other organizations may call it the Security Lifecycle but it is the same concept.
Graphic courtesy of BradReese.com
Cisco's Lifecycle Services Approach
Cisco's security monitoring, analysis, and response system implementation service says that they use a methodology called the “Cisco Lifecycle Services Approach”.
Graphic Courtesy of Cisco Systems
To me, this lifecycle services approach is a combination to the consulting methodology we talked about above and the Cisco security wheel. What I immediately notice about the lifecycle services approach is that it is a "wheel' – meaning it never ends. The approach goes through the process of preparing, planning, designing, implementing, operating, optimizing, and back to preparing (with no start or finish).
While this approach may be advertised as being related to implementing Cisco's network security system, I think there is a lot for us to learn in here about implementing our own projects. For example, this same approach could apply to implementing security on your network, doing a major router upgrade or even a personal project at home.
Cisco's methodologies in practice
In practice, these models are only useful if they are accurately applied and adhered to. To me, here are some of the benefits out of using a methodology like these:
- Forces you to do things that you may not have a habit of doing – like test, document, or follow up.
- Could help you to create a better design
- Could help you to create a more thorough plan
- Could prevent your project from being a flop
- Could prevent downtime and outages at your company
- Could save you from being fired
Following a methodology when performing any security or network project is absolutely the best approach. For consulting companies this is the norm but for small and medium size businesses, methodologies may not be followed unless it is required by company executives. In the end, a methodology that is understood, followed, adhered to, and supported by company executives & managers will network administrators the best chance to implement successful projects. Don't let your network security project or system become a failure - adopt a methodology today!
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