Figure 1: A traditional, flat network architecture
This is called a flat network because there is no firewall or logical separation between any of the devices, so they can talk directly to every other device on the network.
This kind of architecture worked well when most small businesses just had a few computers, which was often the case in the late 90s and early 2000s. Back then, there was no Wi-Fi, no IoT network-connected devices, and very few (if any) mobile phones that had access to the Internet.
Why flat networks are no longer OK
When smartphones with Wi-Fi access became commonplace, many small companies found that the number of devices connected to their network doubled over a very short period of time, increasing networking and – specifically – cybersecurity challenges.
Today, network security is an even tougher challenge, as smart TVs, smart light bulbs, smart refrigerators, and a wide range of other IoT devices are being connected to small business networks at scale – sometimes resulting in literally hundreds of devices on the network.
All of these new devices have a network interface, storage, memory, processors and an operating system. In other words, they are computers, and they are just as vulnerable to attack as any other kind of computer or smartphone.
Additionally, IoT devices in particular are always connected to the Internet, and are rarely patched, making them a relatively easy target for hackers. Remember, hackers can use these devices to access the network as a whole – which could potentially lead to a major data breach and – in the worst cases – large regulatory fines.
Boost your cybersecurity with network segmentation
By segmenting their networks, small businesses can isolate devices and systems on separate sub-networks. This not only allows better sharing of throughput or bandwidth to the Internet, but it also helps to secure systems that contain sensitive data, and separates those systems from people and other systems that don’t need to have contact with them.
In the typical small business, this can be achieved by using two or more routers, and looks like this: