How to stay quick but secure: Cyber network security optimization

A slow and vulnerable network is a prime target for a DDoS attack. But if you boost the speed, does it necessarily mean you're safer? The reality is a bit more complicated.

In the context of cyber security, network optimization is non-negotiable, particularly for companies that need consistent availability of their information, assets, platforms, and systems.

A robust network must be both fast and secure, capable of warding off any cyber threat. In this article, we'll dive into which businesses benefit most from network optimization, how it can enhance your cyber security defences, where to start with your network optimization, and how to gauge the success of your efforts.

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The connection between network optimization and cyber security

In network optimization, you configure and manage your network to improve both network performance and security. Imagine your network as a series of water pipes, much like your office building's water system.

Just as plumbers arrange pipes to ensure optimal water flow and prevent leaks, IT professionals optimize networks to ensure data flows efficiently and securely to its destinations, minimizing the risks of leaks—cyber breaches—and bottlenecks.

Measures to protect your network to strengthen cyber security

There are a few proven ways to optimize your network while strengthening its resistance to cyber threats: segmentation, VPNs, encryption and control access.

Network segmentation

Segmenting your network, just like organising different water lines in a plumbing system, tailors bandwidth to the needs of various departments but also isolates them to contain potential security breaches.

What works best is customising segmentation based on your business needs—sensitive data can reside in a more secure and limited-access network segment, while less sensitive data might be in a more accessible one.

For example, while your IT department might require robust bandwidth to function optimally, your HR department might not. By segmenting these services, you minimize the overlap, reducing the risk of a network-wide breach if one segment is compromised.


Think of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) as protective tunnels built around your water pipes. These tunnels shield the water from contaminants as it travels through unsafe areas. In your network, VPNs protect your data as it travels the internet.


Combining VPNs with encryption adds another layer of security because it seals the data itself, ensuring that it remains undecipherable to unauthorised users even if accessed due to cyberattacks.

Access controls

Determining who has access to what parts of the network helps prevent unauthorised entry and data breaches. Not everyone in your organisation should have access to all levels of the network. Implement access controls to limit who can access what, especially the information critical to running your operations.

How is network speed related to security vulnerabilities?

When investing in a fast, high-capacity network, it's tempting to assume it's secure because it's robust and performs well. However, speed doesn't automatically guarantee security.

Speed doesn’t equal security

A quick network enables rapid data transfer and operations but also empowers attackers to move through your network as quickly if it's not adequately secured. So, your network speed has to be matched with an equivalent commitment to network security.

For instance, if you're rolling out a new 10Gb/s network, investing heavily in the hardware is only half the battle. You must also ensure that every piece of equipment, even if it's state-of-the-art and works right out of the box, is appropriately configured beyond the default settings.


Many IT leaders place too much trust in the factory settings of new, expensive networking equipment. Remember that just because a device works immediately upon installation doesn't mean it's secure. A good rule of thumb would be to always, if possible, change the default out-of-the-box configurations for more security.

Slower networks can be exploited by "script kiddies"

Slower networks may be more susceptible to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks can overload your network by flooding it with traffic, similar to overfilling a bucket of water until it overflows. Optimized networks are designed to handle unexpected surges in traffic, preventing such overflows and the associated risks.

Another significant risk involves the speed at which security breaches are detected and addressed. In slower networks, there's a delay in logging security events, which can mean not realising you've been hacked until it's too late.

Attackers can exploit this lag, often referred to as a move by "script kiddies" who use simple, pre-written attack scripts. Optimized networks help capture and analyse logs rapidly, enabling quicker responses to potential security threats and reducing the window of opportunity for attackers. Thanks to quick detection, you can reverse engineer attacks and trace them back to their origins, significantly improving your chances of preventing further breaches.

Do you need network optimization? How to decide.

As an IT leader, you'll often find the first clue that your network needs optimization from the people closest to it. If your team starts reporting issues like slow network speeds, it's a sign to dig deeper into potential causes, whether it's network congestion, misconfigurations, or outdated hardware. These complaints are your cue to investigate and address these issues directly, pinpointing where improvements are needed.

Regular risk assessments guided by standards such as ISO 27005 can help you maintain overall network health. This helps you systematically identify potential vulnerabilities in your network before they can be exploited. Keep an eye on industry standards, such as the OWASP top 10 list of vulnerabilities, to stay updated on new threats. Use playbooks and conduct tabletop exercises to simulate potential attacks or system failures.

What businesses benefit the most from network optimization?

While nearly any business can see improvements from network optimization, it's one of the top cyber security measures for some industries. It all depends on whether information availability is the most important for your business.

Manufacturing companies

For manufacturing companies, everything hinges on keeping those production lines moving. Your machinery and automated systems are deeply interconnected and rely heavily on a steady network connection.

Read more: Cyber security & supply chain risk management: Mistakes & best practices

If your network goes down, so does your production, which can lead to significant financial losses and operational headaches. Optimizing your network ensures these critical systems keep running smoothly, minimizing the risk of unexpected shutdowns.

E-commerce businesses

In e-commerce, your network's uptime is directly tied to your bottom line. Every second of downtime could mean lost sales and customers losing trust in your ability to deliver. By keeping your network in top shape, you make sure that your platform can handle high traffic volumes, especially during those peak shopping hours, and keep transactions flowing without a hitch.

Professional services

For businesses like legal and financial services, where client confidentiality and data security are critical, any disruption can mean more than just downtime. It can lead to breaches of sensitive information and non-compliance with strict regulations.

Network optimization in professional services ensures client communications and transactions are secure and uninterrupted, protecting your reputation and clients' data.

Best practices of network optimization

The best practices of network optimization go beyond choosing the right hardware or software; they often boil down to strategic and financial planning.

Plan and prioritize

Take a good look at your current network setup. It's a little like you're checking an old plumbing system—figure out which parts need a fix or an upgrade to meet today's needs and keep up with future demands. Check the physical hardware and think about how network resources are distributed.

Watch: AI-led cyberattacks: are you ready?

Key departments running critical servers might need fast internet and backup power to stay smooth during a power cut, while others in your office might not need such high-speed connections for their everyday tasks. By deciding who needs the most resources, you can ensure important areas are well-supported and streamline the rest to avoid wasting resources.

Allocate costs

The transition can be costly and complex if you're considering upgrading to newer technologies, like swapping old CAT5 cables for advanced CAT6e. For IT leaders, securing the budget and navigating logistical challenges are as important as the technical details of the upgrade itself.

The initial investment can be significant if your company is based in a large office building. However, the main infrastructure work, like installing cables and setting up routers, is likely already done. The problem is, systems are often set up and then overlooked. Maintenance happens, but continuous checking and risk assessments are rare. People assume that once systems are configured, they'll just keep working without issues, but this can lead to unnoticed misconfigurations.


As for ROI, updating your network is generally worth the effort. You can schedule this work for off-hours to prevent disrupting the workday. If your IT team is in a different time zone, they could perform updates or checks late at night when your office is empty. This way, you avoid downtime during business hours, which can be more cost-effective than other risk management activities that disrupt daily operations.

Pick your tech

High-end network optimization systems from leading brands like Cisco, HP, or Dell come with robust capabilities but also hefty price tags. These systems are designed to support remote updates and maintenance, enabling your staff to manage the network from anywhere in the world. Something worth considering if maintaining 24/7 network operations across different time zones is a priority for your business.

On the technical side, ensure your chosen system supports current encryption standards like SHA-256. Verify the encryption capabilities advertised on the box by consulting the product's technical documentation available online. While testing encryption strength yourself might be overkill unless you operate in a highly sensitive sector, understanding what you're working with is good practice.

You might also be interested: What are some examples of cyber security measures for tech companies?

Additionally, consider if you need an Intrusion Detection System (IDS), which can immensely help when identifying potential security breaches. IDS can alert you to suspicious activities, like unusual IP addresses or potential hacking attempts, and can automatically take action to prevent damage, such as isolating a compromised device. Such systems are handy to fight off DDoS attacks.

Keep records and test

Upgrading your network takes more than just plugging in the latest tech. You need to keep detailed records and test the system regularly to make sure it keeps up with your business as it evolves. This means scheduling routine audits and updates, and sometimes tweaking settings to meet new demands. For IT leaders, the challenge is to keep your tech fresh while ensuring the investments you make today will still pay off down the line.

How do you keep your network secure?

You should focus on three key areas to effectively manage your network security.

First, consider setting up a Security Operations Centre (SoC) to monitor all network traffic and spot any abnormal activities for further investigation.

Second, regularly conduct security assessments to quickly identify and address vulnerabilities in your network infrastructure, keeping in mind your budget and time constraints.

Third, prioritise encrypting your network traffic whenever possible without significantly slowing down the network. Enforce and utilise protocols like TLS (Transport Layer Security) for the most important communications and websites or SSH (Secure Shell) for connection between systems. Encryption is increasingly standard in many out-of-the-box systems today, unlike in the past when it was more of a speciality feature.

Where and how do you begin with network optimization?

Assess your situation

Start by checking your network for any performance hitches or security gaps. Look for bottlenecks – these are your priority. Think of your network as a series of water pipes: if one part narrows down, it will slow down everything that comes after it. This could be because of settings that need tweaking or old hardware that needs to be swapped out.

Build your strategy

Based on your findings, lay out a plan that tackles things like better network segmentation, setting up VPNs, and updating systems. If your network's relatively flat, breaking it into segments can make a big difference as you grow.

Execute and test

Roll out the changes and check if everything's working as it should. After you've dealt with the bottlenecks and segmented the network, double-check that all parts are running smoothly. VPNs and other access points should be secure and functioning well for everyone who needs them.


Keep an eye on your network regularly to avoid any new threats and keep up with changes in your business. Always be ready to adjust access and settings as needed. Staying on top of this stops minor problems from turning into big ones and keeps your network in top shape.

How do you measure the success of your network optimization efforts?

To measure the success of your network optimization, track performance benchmarks and security incident logs. Look for faster network speeds, less downtime, and fewer security breaches. Start by setting clear performance targets, like how fast a file should upload to a server.

Use bandwidth tests to measure how much data your network can handle and how quickly. Treat these tests like a science experiment to keep your testing consistent. Also, consider using network simulation software to test your network under various conditions. This helps set a benchmark for expected performance and identify any real-world discrepancies.

Finally, decide what level of performance drop is acceptable. For instance, if you're okay with speeds being 10% slower than what simulations predict but find they're 50% slower, you likely have a significant issue to fix. Regularly comparing actual performance against these standards can help you pinpoint where your network needs more work.

How to secure your organisation?

Know your most valuable assets, risks that affect your assets and measures that address those risks. Have a good overview of what you have and what you need to protect. That way, you'll also know whether network optimization should be on your list.

You don't have to do it alone by filling out endless spreadsheets. Use DataGuard's all-in-one security platform and talk to our security experts:



Frequently Asked Questions

What is network optimization?

Network optimization involves fine-tuning network infrastructure to enhance performance and efficiency while ensuring security. It aims to maximise data transfer speeds, minimise latency, and streamline network operations.

What are network optimization examples?

Examples of network optimization include implementing load-balancing techniques to distribute network traffic evenly, optimizing routing protocols for faster data transmission, and deploying caching mechanisms to reduce bandwidth usage.

What are network optimization techniques?

Network optimization techniques encompass various strategies such as traffic shaping to prioritise critical data, protocol optimization to streamline communication, and Quality of Service (QoS) configuration to ensure optimal performance for specific applications or users.

How to optimize your network?

To optimize your network, start by conducting a thorough assessment to identify bottlenecks and security vulnerabilities. Then, implement appropriate techniques such as network segmentation, traffic prioritisation, and hardware upgrades to enhance performance and security.

What is the role of network segmentation in cyber security?

Network segmentation plays a vital role in cyber security by dividing a network into smaller, isolated segments. This limits the scope of potential cyberattacks, prevents lateral movement within the network, and enables granular control over access permissions and security policies. By segmenting networks based on risk levels or user roles, organisations can enhance overall security posture and contain breaches more effectively.

About the author

Emrick Etheridge Emrick Etheridge
Emrick Etheridge

Emrick Etheridge is an associate Information Security Consultant and a certified ISO 27001 Lead Auditor. Prior to DataGuard, Emrick studied Computer Science at Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge) before entering a world of Digital Forensics and Information Security for a Cambridge based company. In these roles, he consulted merchants who required either a digital forensic investigation or re-certification. Emrick was also a certified Cyber Essentials assessor at the heart of the pandemic which proved to be an interesting time in industry. In his current role, he helps SMEs create an Information Security Management System (ISMS) to strengthen their security posture as well as consulting them on their path to obtaining ISO 27001 certification.

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