Implementing Network Access Control for Small Businesses: A Simple Guide

Did you know that 61% of small and medium-sized businesses were targeted by cyberattacks in 2021? This startling statistic highlights the critical importance of network access control (NAC) in safeguarding small businesses against escalating cybersecurity threats. As the digital attack surface expands, fueled by the adoption of remote work and the proliferation of personal devices connecting to corporate networks, the challenge for technology leaders is not just to implement NAC, but to ensure it is robust, adaptable, and user-friendly.

Network access control stands as the gatekeeper to your digital assets, scrutinizing each device and user attempting to connect to your network, verifying their credentials, and enforcing security policies to deter unauthorized access. With 47% of businesses with fewer than 50 employees lacking a cybersecurity budget, the implementation of NAC is not just a security measure; it's a critical investment in the continuity and resilience of your business.

The integration of NAC solutions, like Aruba ClearPass, Forescout Platform, and FortiNAC, offers technology leaders a spectrum of tools to enforce security policies, manage device compliance, and ensure that their network remains impermeable to unauthorized entities.

However, choosing the right NAC solution involves balancing scalability, ease of use, security features, and cost-effectiveness. It demands a strategic approach to assess your current network infrastructure, identify vulnerabilities, and deploy a solution that not only fits your present needs but also grows with your business. Beyond implementation, the maintenance of NAC policies and the regular auditing of network access logs are essential practices to keep your network security posture resilient and responsive to emerging threats.

TL;DR: Now that small businesses are being targeted by cyberattacks, network access control (NAC) emerges as an indispensable tool for protecting digital assets. Implementing and maintaining an effective NAC system requires a strategic approach to select solutions that offer scalability, security, and cost-effectiveness, ensuring that only authorized users and devices can access network resources. By prioritizing network security through NAC, technology leaders can fortify their defenses against cyber threats, safeguarding their businesses in the digital age.

Understanding the Importance of Network Access Control

Network access control plays a crucial role in enhancing the cybersecurity of small businesses. It is a security solution that allows you to control and manage the devices that can connect to your network. By implementing network access control, you can ensure that only authorized devices and users can access your network resources.

With the increasing number of cyber threats targeting small businesses, it is essential to understand the importance of network access control. It provides an additional layer of security by preventing unauthorized access and reducing the risk of data breaches and network compromises. Unauthorized users include cybercriminals, hackers and data thieves, that an organization must keep out. But businesses must also be gatekeepers for authorized users. This particularly applies to organizations that allow remote access to the enterprise network from non-corporate devices like mobile phones, laptops and tablets, or companies that allow employees working in the office to use personal devices. Both scenarios create security risks demanding organizations to address network security.

NAC is one aspect of network security. It provides visibility into the devices and users trying to access the enterprise network. And it controls who can access the network, including denying access to those users and devices that don’t comply with security policies. NAC solutions and tools help companies control network access, ensure compliance and strengthen their IT infrastructure.

Assessing Your Small Business Network

Assessing your small business network before implementing network access control is a critical step toward ensuring your network's security and efficiency. This process allows you to understand your current infrastructure, identify potential vulnerabilities, and evaluate the effectiveness of existing security measures. Statistics and insights from various sources highlight the importance of such an assessment.

Cybersecurity threats for small businesses is significant, with 61% of SMBs being the target of a cyberattack in 2021. This emphasizes the need for a thorough assessment to identify vulnerabilities and improve defenses. Small businesses are particularly appealing targets for cybercriminals due to generally having fewer security measures in place. In fact, 47% of businesses with fewer than 50 employees have no cybersecurity budget, and 51% have no cybersecurity measures in place at all. Moreover, 59% of small business owners with no cybersecurity measures believe their business is too small to be targeted, highlighting a dangerous misconception.

A network assessment involves analyzing various elements of your network, including cybersecurity vulnerabilities, network bandwidth issues, infrastructure problems, and data and file security. This comprehensive approach can reveal critical vulnerabilities, such as outdated security patches, insufficient password management, and inadequate antivirus software. Addressing these vulnerabilities can significantly enhance your network's security against national or global threats and user vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, a network risk assessment is vital for identifying risks to your critical systems and sensitive data. This assessment should be performed by a qualified IT expert or managed IT services provider such as Turn-Key Technologies that specializes in network risk management. Tools like RapidFire Tools can also analyze network performance, security risks, capacity issues, and compliance with standards such as PCI and HIPAA. These assessments can identify common issues like unsupported operating systems, lack of antivirus software, and user passwords set to never expire, providing clear recommendations for upgrading systems and improving security protocols

By thoroughly assessing your small business network, you can identify vulnerabilities, enhance security measures, and ensure a smooth implementation of network access control.

Choosing the Right Network Access Control Solution

When selecting the right Network Access Control (NAC) solution for your small business, it's crucial to consider scalability, ease of use and management, security features, and cost-effectiveness. Various NAC solutions are designed to meet these needs, each with its unique features and pricing models.

Scalability: Solutions like Aruba ClearPass are well-regarded among small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) for their ability to cater to SMBs' needs effectively. They offer comprehensive network access control with role-based policies, automated BYOD provisioning, and device compliance, all of which are scalable as your business grows​. 

As experts in the networking space, the team at Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI) has been able to assist a number of organizations in upgrading their legacy solutions to better meet the demands of today. For example, Teachers College, Columbia University, chose TTI to help them replace their existing Cisco products with solutions from the extensive Aruba product catalog. 

Ease of Use and Management: Forescout Platform is noted for its user-friendly platform and seamless deployment, providing automated remediation, access control implementations, monitoring, and insights. It's designed to manage a vast array of devices, including IoT and BYOD, making it a versatile choice for businesses concerned about ease of use.

Security Features: FortiNAC by Fortinet offers a comprehensive set of security features, including device identification and profiling, policy-based access control, and vulnerability assessment. It's particularly noted for its compliance reporting capabilities, helping businesses adhere to industry regulations like HIPAA, PCI DSS, and SOX​. FortiNAC is packed with a range of powerful features that make managing network access easier and quicker. From advanced device profiling to automated workflows, every aspect of FortiNAC has been carefully crafted to deliver the best possible user experience.

Cost-Effectiveness: The cost of NAC solutions varies widely depending on the features and scalability you need. For instance, Cisco's Identity Services Engine (ISE) provides a range of licensing options, including perpetual and subscription-based models, which can accommodate different budgetary requirements. However, it's important to note that the initial setup may require an appliance plus software licenses plus service contracts, potentially making it a more expensive option upfront

Ultimately, the right NAC solution for your business will depend on your specific requirements, including the size of your network, the types of devices you need to manage, and your security and compliance needs. It's advisable to request detailed pricing information and possibly a trial period to ensure the solution fits well with your business operations before making a final decision.

Implementing Network Access Control Policies

Implementing network access control policies is a critical step in securing your small business network. These policies define the rules and restrictions for accessing your network resources and ensure that only authorized devices and users can connect.

Start by defining the access control policies based on your small business requirements and security objectives. Consider factors such as user roles, device types, and network locations when creating the policies. For example, you may have different policies for employees, guests, and contractors, each with specific access permissions.

Next, configure the network access control solution to enforce these policies. This involves setting up authentication mechanisms, such as Usernames and Passwords, Digital Certificates, or  Multi-Factor Authentication. You can also implement network segmentation to isolate different types of devices or users.

Regularly and consistently review and update the network access control policies to adapt to changing security needs and business requirements. Conduct periodic audits to ensure compliance and identify any policy violations or unauthorized access attempts.

By implementing network access control policies, you can effectively control and manage access to your small business network, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and potential security breaches.

Monitoring and Maintaining Network Access Control

Once network access control is implemented, it is crucial to monitor and maintain its effectiveness to ensure the ongoing security of your small business network.

Regularly monitor network activity to identify any suspicious or unauthorized access attempts. This can be done through log analysis, intrusion detection systems, or Security information and event management (SIEM). Promptly investigate any anomalies or security incidents and take appropriate actions to mitigate the risks.

Log analysis: is the process of reviewing computer-generated event logs to proactively identify bugs, security threats or other risks. Log analysis can also be used more broadly to ensure compliance with regulations or review user behavior.

Intrusion Detection System (IDS): maintains network traffic looks for unusual activity and sends alerts when it occurs. The main duties of an Intrusion Detection System (IDS) are anomaly detection and reporting, however, certain Intrusion Detection Systems can take action when malicious activity or unusual traffic is discovered. In this article, we will discuss every point about the Intrusion Detection System.

Security information and event management, or SIEM, is a security solution that helps organizations recognize and address potential security threats and vulnerabilities before they have a chance to disrupt business operations. SIEM systems help enterprise security teams detect user behavior anomalies and use artificial intelligence (AI) to automate many of the manual processes associated with threat detection and incident response.

Additionally, conduct regular audits and assessments to evaluate the performance of the network access control solution. This includes reviewing access logs, analyzing network traffic, and testing the effectiveness of security measures. Identify any weaknesses or areas that require improvement and take corrective actions.

Stay updated with the latest security threats and vulnerabilities. Subscribe to security alerts and advisories from trusted sources and apply relevant patches and updates to your network access control solution. Regularly review and update security policies to address emerging threats and maintain a robust security posture.

Lastly, provide continuous training and education to your employees on network security best practices. Raise awareness about the importance of network access control and educate them on how to identify and report any security incidents or suspicious activities.


When it comes to securing your network, there should be no cutting corners. You need an implementation partner that will find the right solutions for your specific needs and will ensure they are installed correctly. By partnering with Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI), you can trust our network security experts to create a comprehensive plan for secure access that incorporates ClearPass alongside other critical cybersecurity measures. 

By investing in secure network access, you’ll build a toolkit that works overtime to protect your data — allowing you to focus on other priorities. Contact TTI today to schedule a network consultation and learn how we can apply our 30 years of professional IT experience to transform your network.

By Turn-key Technologies Staff


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