How to ensure high availability network security strategy

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Organizations with established security solutions deserve a shoutout for demonstrating awareness of cybersecurity challenges and preparedness to tackle incoming digital threats.

Thus, if your company network is secured by encrypted VPN tunnels, user identities are managed and authenticated using comprehensive tools, and teams collaborate via dedicated virtual gateways to protect internal information assets and systems effectively, it’s a great job done so far.

However, mindful cybersecurity is never finite. It’s a continuous process of change and thinking ahead. So, can you confirm that your security strategy has full-scale reliability? Sometimes even one lacking element - like a backup server - can disrupt business continuity. Explore what is high-availability service and how to achieve it in this article.

What is a high-availability service?

High-availability service ensures uninterrupted operation and gives a business the certainty that their critical systems remain available. By implementing redundant systems that can take over in the event of failure, organizations can maintain business continuity. 

In other words, if one server goes down, another one can continue providing service by eliminating the single point of failure. This redundancy prevents downtime, allowing businesses to operate as usual.

How do servers work?

Servers are computers designed to provide services to other computers or devices on a network. They are the backbone of any IT infrastructure, responsible for storing data, hosting applications, and managing network traffic. Servers can be on-site devices or virtualized cloud-based environments operating on a single physical server.

When users enter the company network, they connect to virtual gateways to access digital assets stored in company servers. Encrypted traffic helps secure online activity from the open internet. However, an organization operating on a single dedicated server faces the risk of losing connectivity to its internal resources.

What risks do servers pose for business continuity?

Servers are often targeted by cybercriminals, making them vulnerable to various attacks. These malicious actors constantly try to exploit server vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive data or launch attacks on other systems. Even a momentary lapse can open a security gap that attackers may exploit, jeopardizing business data integrity.

Some of the security risks posed by servers include:

Unauthorized access 

Attackers can use vulnerabilities in servers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data. This can result in data breaches, which can be costly for businesses’ financial loss and reputational damage.

Malware infections 

Servers can be infected with malware that can spread to other systems on the network. This can result in system downtime, loss of data, and potential damage to the business.

DDoS attacks 

Servers can also be targeted by Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, where attackers flood the server with traffic to overload and crash it. This can result in downtime and lost revenue for businesses.

Insider threats 

Insider threats can also pose a security risk to servers. Employees, contractors, and other third parties with access to servers can abuse their privileges to gain unauthorized access or cause damage to the system.

Industry server downtime incidents & costs

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS). In 2017, an AWS S3 (Simple Storage Service) system outage caused downtime for several high-profile websites, including Netflix, Airbnb, and Slack. The incident reportedly cost AWS an estimated $150 million in lost revenue.

  • Delta Air Lines. In 2016, a power outage caused Delta's computer systems to crash, leading to the cancellation of over 2,000 flights over three days. The airline suffered a financial setback of $150 million due to the incident, resulting in a significant loss of revenue.

  • PayPal. In 2010, a data center outage rendered PayPal's services unavailable for several hours, leading to an estimated loss of $3.5 million in revenue.

  • Google. In 2013, a software bug caused a significant outage for Google's Gmail service, affecting millions of users. The incident incurred an approximate loss of $1 million for the company.

  • Knight Capital. In 2012, a software glitch in Knight Capital trading algorithms caused a catastrophic malfunction, leading to a loss of over $440 million in just 45 minutes. The incident proved to be a decisive factor in the eventual company's bankruptcy.

  • British Airways. In 2017, a power outage caused a global computer system failure for British Airways, leading to the cancellation of over 400 flights and disrupting travel plans for 75,000 passengers. The airline faced an estimated financial impact of $68 million, encompassing both compensation and lost revenue.

  • Equifax. In 2017, a data breach at Equifax compromised the personal data of over 143 million consumers. The incident resulted in the resignation of the company's CEO. It also brought about an estimated $439 million in expenses and lost business.

Server downtime: circumstances & consequences 

Server downtime is a period when it is unresponsive or unavailable to provide the service. Various factors can contribute to these sudden and unplanned disconnections, some of which may depend on the server vendor’s responsibility and be beyond the service provider's control.

Server outages influenced by vendors 

  1. Hardware failures. Hardware failures are the most common reason for server downtime. They can occur due to various reasons like hard drive failures, CPU failures, power supply failures, and more. According to the Ponemon Institute, hardware failures account for 45% of all unplanned downtime.

  2. Software bugs. Software bugs or coding errors can cause servers to crash, hang, or fail. According to a report by Veracode, 38% of unplanned downtime was caused by software bugs.

  3. Network issues. Connectivity issues, latency, and packet loss can also contribute to server downtime. As the IBM report states, network failures account for 34% of all unplanned downtime.

  4. Human Error. Server downtime can also take place due to human errors, such as misconfigurations or accidental deletion of critical data. As per a survey conducted by Dimensional Research, 82% of organizations experienced downtime prompted by human-related factors.

Server outage factors beyond supplier control

  1. Natural disasters. Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires can result in power outages, network disruptions, and physical server damage and lead to downtime. The Disaster Recovery Preparedness Council estimates that 20% of all instances of downtime can be attributed to natural disasters.

  2. Cyberattacks. Cyberattacks like Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, ransomware attacks, and malware infections can also cause server downtime. According to a report by World Economic Forum, a single DDoS attack carries an average cost of $1.1 million.

  3. Power outages. Power outages can bring servers to a halt. Whether caused by grid or equipment failures, these interruptions can lead to significant downtime. Based on a survey conducted by Emerson Network Power, power outages are the most common culprit for data center downtime, accounting for 33% of all incidents.

  4. Cooling failures. Cooling failures, such as air conditioning failures, can make servers overheat, ultimately leading to downtime. In a survey by the Uptime Institute, it was found that cooling failures are responsible for 7% of all data center outages.

Many server downtime incidents are often influenced by multiple factors, such as issues dependent on vendors and those beyond the supplier’s control. Moreover, vendors rely on third parties, which indirectly impacts their responsibility for service quality.

Proactive threat management strategy

Temporary server outages are common and usually beyond the direct vendor's control. Thus, server downtime shouldn’t be interpreted as a low-quality service but an unfavourable event impacting all parties.

Factors unrelated to vendors, such as power outages, natural disasters, and cyberattacks, can cause downtime. Thus, implementing an extra server in a different location to maintain high-availability services helps businesses minimize the impact of unexpected downtime and ensure uninterrupted operations.

To mitigate these security risks, businesses should adopt a proactive threat management strategy that includes regular security audits, vulnerability tracking, and testing. Organization IT managers must secure that up-to-date antivirus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems are in place

Additionally, it’s highly recommended to follow best industry practices while configuring and securing company servers. These practices include employing strong passwords, restricting access to sensitive data, and regularly patching and updating systems.

Following the best practices for service high availability 

Best practices for service high availability are critical for ensuring our IT infrastructure remains resilient and minimizes downtime, reducing the risk of data loss. 

Implement redundancy

High-availability services rely on redundancy, which involves duplicating business data or running many instances of SaaS applications across different servers. This way, an organization can continue providing services if one server experiences issues. Additionally, distributing traffic across multiple server locations prevents any single server from becoming overwhelmed.

Infrastructure monitoring

Monitoring is critical to ensuring the high availability of your IT infrastructure. Keeping an eye on company servers and applications helps detect potential issues early on, preventing them from escalating. This involves monitoring system logs, resource usage, and performance metrics to spot any bottlenecks or other issues.

Disaster recovery implementation

It’s an essential part of any high-availability service that involves creating a backup plan for your data, regularly testing those backups, and having a plan for restoring data in case of a disaster. A well-designed disaster recovery plan minimizes downtime and reduces the risk of data loss.

Test and audit high-availability services 

Regularly testing and auditing your high-availability services is crucial for ensuring their effectiveness. By conducting thorough testing, you can identify any potential issues and ensure your disaster recovery is reliable. This can include testing failover processes, load balancing mechanisms, and data recovery procedures.

Keeping software up-to-date 

Maintaining your software up-to-date is key to the security and stability of your IT infrastructure. This includes applying patches and updates to your operating system, applications, and firmware to address known vulnerabilities and fix bugs.

By following these best practices, you can ensure that your high-availability services are operational, minimizing downtime and reducing the risk of data loss.

How can NordLayer help secure your business continuity?

To ensure uninterrupted access to systems and safeguard sensitive data, businesses must prioritize the high availability of their services. Implementing extra protection measures is a common practice in the market.

If a company operates on a single server, an extra server in a different location can provide an added layer of protection, especially in the case of a localized disaster. By adopting best practices and implementing a proactive threat management strategy, businesses can minimize the impact of downtime and maintain constant operations.

NordLayer has an extensive network of dedicated servers worldwide to offer options for backup plans and ensure network security and high-level performance. Contact us to learn more to discover how we can strengthen your network security by eliminating single points of failure and making a proactive security-based addition to your business.

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