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What is network compliance?

Network compliance is the set of processes that a business uses to ensure its networks conform with compliance standards..

Those standards may include external security rules defined in regulatory compliance frameworks, such as GDPR or HIPAA. In addition, network compliance may entail conformance with internal operational and security policies that the business establishes for itself. For example, the business may create an internal governance policy requiring that network logging features are turned on to ensure that network operations teams can monitor and troubleshoot network performance issues.

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Why is network compliance important?

Network compliance helps ensure that networks are implemented and managed in ways that comply with the organization's needs and priorities. Without network compliance, a business would risk having network designs and configurations that don't align with its security or operational requirements.

For example, a regulatory compliance framework may require a business's network to have certain security protections in place, such as encryption of data in motion. Network compliance processes can verify that encryption is activated for traffic flowing over the network. Going deeper, network compliance processes could also evaluate the type of encryption protocol used and determine whether it matches rules established by the relevant compliance framework, if it requires a specific type of encryption.

As another example, a business may establish governance policies that require micro-segmentation for workloads at the network level. Using network compliance, the business could review its network architecture to confirm that workloads are properly segmented.

How do you achieve network compliance?

To achieve network compliance, organizations typically do the following:

  • Assess compliance needs: External compliance rules (such as those set by regulatory authorities) can be complex and somewhat ambiguous. Meanwhile, network engineers may not always be readily aware of all the internal compliance rules that a business establishes for itself. For both reasons, carefully identifying, reviewing and interpreting the external and internal compliance mandates that a business must meet, and determining what their implications are for network operations and security, is a critical first step in network compliance.
  • Implement the necessary network controls: After establishing which network compliance requirements it must meet, network engineers should decide which specific network controls or configurations are necessary to meet those requirements, then implement them.
  • Monitor and audit the network: Network monitoring and auditing allow the organization to collect data from its network. The data reflects the actual state of the network, as opposed to the theoretical state that the network is supposed to assume.
  • Compliance analysis: After collecting data about the network's state, the organization can review it to determine whether the actual configuration and operational state of the network conforms with the compliance needs of the business. 
  • Network compliance processes can be performed manually, which means collecting and analyzing data about network compliance by hand. To achieve efficiency and make network compliance possible at scale, however, organizations should look for ways to automate network compliance processes wherever possible. With network compliance automation, they can deploy tools that automatically assess whether compliance requirements are being met.

    For example, network engineers could define a network security policy based on compliance needs, then configure their network monitoring and management software to alert them automatically if the configuration defined by the security policy is not reflected by the actual state of the network.

Best Practices for Network Compliance

Network compliance can be a challenging aspect of network operations due to the complexity of compliance rules and the difficulty of assessing whether they are met within large, sophisticated networks. The following best practices can help to make network compliance easier and more efficient:

  • Automate network compliance: As noted above, automated network compliance is essential for achieving compliance at scale. While it may be possible to review the state of smaller networks manually, you'll want to be able to define and enforce network compliance rules automatically on the large networks that power most modern environments.
  • Monitor compliance continuously: Periodic audits or reviews of network settings aren't enough to prevent divergence from the configurations that external or internal rules mandate. To the extent possible, strive to collect and assess network compliance data continuously and in real time so that you can detect and correct compliance issues as quickly as possible. Real-time network compliance monitoring is feasible when you automate compliance operations.
  • Consolidate compliance requirements: Different units of the business may face different external compliance requirements. Rather than trying to implement different network compliance processes for each business function, consolidate the compliance process by defining a central set of compliance policies and monitoring their status automatically.
  • Establish tolerable risk levels: In complex networks, some level of deviation from compliance requirements is virtually inevitable. For that reason, you should determine which types of violations are less serious, and which level of risk you can tolerate. Doing so helps engineers decide which compliance violations to prioritize to achieve the highest overall level of compliance.

These practices help ensure that network compliance operations are as efficient, effective, and scalable as possible, regardless of the complexity of your network or of the external and internal compliance mandates to which your organization is subject.


How does VMware help?

With VMware, network security and compliance becomes intrinsic to your infrastructure. You reduce your attack surface to mitigate security risk, ensure compliance, and simplify security operations and architecture.

VMware lateral security understands the inner workings of your applications, allowing you to see all connections and conversations, detect anomalous behavior, stop, and evict threat actors—even those using legitimate ports and protocols—and recover quickly by restoring your business-critical apps.

With VMware, you can accurately understand the security situation and enforce the appropriate policies and actions to close security gaps and reduce risk. This not only enables easier sharing of data between security controls, but also enhances coordination between Security, IT, Operations, and Development teams to act faster and with greater efficiency. With security delivered as a built-in distributed service, you reduce the number of tools and agents you deploy while managing them in a centralized fashion, you can consistently apply your policies across multiple environments with little to no added effort. You achieve full coverage of your environment by connecting the dots while reducing complexity and blind spots.


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