Magazine Article | January 18, 2007

Is Broadband A Good Idea?

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

If you’ve moved to a high-speed broadband network (or are thinking about doing so), the answer may surprise you.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, February 2007

How could fast credit card and POS transactions be anything other than a terrific idea?  The fact is, broadband is valuable to you and your customers only if your fast connections are secure from computer viruses and hackers.

Broadband Can Mean Vulnerable
Because broadband connections effectively open the door between your business network and the Internet, your POS and corporate communications systems are vulnerable to hackers and viruses. Even if your individual locations have broadband connections only back to your headquarters, with no direct links to the Internet, security still is an issue; a virus that infects one location can race around your network to infect all locations.

So serious are these risks that in 2001 Visa USA instituted the CISP (Cardholder Information Security Program) and joined with MasterCard in 2004 to incorporate the CISP requirements in a common industry standard, the PCI (Payment Card Industry) Data Security Standard.  PCI/CISP spells out security rules for any merchant, member, and service provider that stores, processes, or transmits cardholder data. There are about a dozen PCI/CISP rules, but they basically boil down to three requirements:
1.  install a firewall,
2.  use antivirus software, and
3.  install an IPS (intrusion-prevention system).

Do-It-Yourself Security?
It's certainly possible for you to take care of all of your company's broadband-security issues.  You could, for example, buy multipurpose firewall/antivirus/IPS "boxes" and install one at each of your locations. That option is expensive, however, and is a challenge to manage. Alternatively, you could spend thousands of dollars for one big box and install it at your headquarters as a centralized security system. Of course, you then would have to create a hub-and-spoke network to route all of your traffic through headquarters. Add to that the significant amounts of money you'd have to spend every month for high-speed Internet access at your headquarters. Depending on your company's speed requirements and the number of people using that link, it will cost you somewhere between $3,000 and $12,000 each month. As if all that weren't enough, you would incur even more ongoing expenses because you would have to hire people to manage this complex system.

Do-it-yourself broadband security is possible, but why would you want to take on that chore? In addition to all your responsibilities in running your business, you'd have to research security equipment, figure out how it works, determine the best product for your needs, and then install everything. The learning curve is steep, and navigating it is going to cost you a lot of time, money, and headaches.

Or Get Your Security From An Expert?
Many retailers across numerous industries have found it makes sense to turn over their broadband security chores to network operators that offer managed services.  These managed service providers have powerful firewall/anti-virus/IPS capabilities within their networks with which they can blanket your existing locations and any new sites you add. Typically, managed service providers bundle the cost of security with their monthly fees, so you only pay a relatively small per-site cost each month; there are no huge up-front costs.  Further, the term "managed service" means just that — these providers manage your broadband security, 24/7, freeing you to run your business, confident that your corporate and customer account data are truly secure. So, yes, broadband is a good idea, but only when you combine it with a managed-security service does it become a really good idea for retailers.