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Obstacles Nick NAC, But Growth Continues

Most companies are getting network access control, but cost and lack of integration still are pain points

The vast majority of companies are deploying network access control (NAC) technology as a means of securing their endpoints -- but they aren't all happy about it.

That's the gist of a new survey, conducted by Applied Research West, which was published earlier today by Symantec.

In interviews with 300 security pros at the recent InfoSecurity 2007 conference in New York, Applied Research found that nearly 70 percent of companies surveyed have already implemented NAC products or plan to do so in the next 12 months.

NAC, which is offered by virtually all the major security tool vendors, including Cisco and Microsoft, has often been ballyhooed as the answer to the question of how to secure desktops, laptops, and mobile endpoints. But a diversity of products and confusion about the technology's capabilities have slowed deployment. (See NAC: Can't Get No Satisfaction.)

Interestingly, 86 percent of the survey respondents who had deployed NAC said they had "no problems" deploying NAC and that everything went smoothly. But the question allowed users to have multiple responses, and 21 percent said they had difficulty integrating NAC with other security hardware and software. Eighteen percent said NAC used too many resources, including people, equipment, and time, and 16 percent complained about the lack of industry standards.

More than 30 percent of respondents said they have no plans to deploy NAC within the next 12 months. Of those respondents, 35 percent said the technology is too costly; 27 percent said NAC is not interoperable with their current infrastructure or operating systems; 20 said it is "too disruptive" to implement.

Many of the security pros complained about NAC's interoperability issues. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they would prefer to buy all-in-one products from a single vendor, rather than multiple products from multiple vendors. Sixty-one percent say they believe vendors should adopt standards for NAC.

In its early phases, NAC was promoted as a means of safely connecting guests and mobile users to the corporate network. So far, however, only 27 percent of users say they are using NAC for guest access. Eighty percent of enterprises that have deployed NAC say they did it to prevent unauthorized users from entering their networks. Sixty-six percent say they did it to protect critical business assets and prevent data loss.

Similarly, early discussions of NAC focused on policy enforcement at the endpoint, forcing users to meet specific security requirements before allowing them onto the network. But 63 percent now say they prefer NAC enforcement to take place within the network, using existing network security features, rather than at the endpoint.

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