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Network Access Control is becoming a keystone in modern networks day by day because digital world is witnessing a lot of changes regarding the way users are connecting to the various networks. This includes enterprise networks, Small office, Home office SoHo networks, and even publicly opened networks like hotspots. With the emerging of new phenomena like Bring Your Own Device BYOD and the growth of mobile devices used to access the network, Network Access Control NAC is at the heart of a secure network.
Network Access Control NAC, as the name implies, is a solution which controls the access to the network. A long time ago, clients’ devices need to connect to the network was predetermined and static in nature. For instance, it was so common to see an enterprise with hundreds or maybe thousands of fixed PCs, with a good probability that all those PCs are provided by the same vendor. Controlling such an environment was a piece of cake for most network administrators. This simple task used to be accomplished by using a combination of access control lists ACLs and Port Security features of the managed access switches.
But things started to change with the exponential growth of mobile devices usage, and things started to go out of control for most network administrators. That is why administrators needed a dynamic solution which can scale, disregarding the number and the type of connected clients’ devices. And here was the very first and most basic functionality of Network Access Control NAC, which was controlling WHO can access the network.
This Who functionality of Network Access Control NAC systems can be achieved by using 802.1X feature in the access switches or in the wireless access points or controllers, in addition to the different Extensible Authentication Protocols EAP and identity database servers like active directory servers.
Despite the importance of the Who functionality of Network Access Control NAC, this solution had to grow to include more advanced functions and features. For instance, a modern Network Access Control NAC should provide, in addition to the Who functionality, What functionality. This functionality indicates the type of the connected user/device. Where functionality indicates the location of the user/device trying to connect, whether it is trying to connect using a wired connection, a wireless connection, or even a remote connection using the different VPN technologies. And finally, When functionality, helps administrators getting a deep insight into the different activities running inside their networks.
The list of offered services and features offered by Network Access Control NAC may differ depending on the vendor. However, in general, a modern Network Access Control NAC should have the following capabilities:
Network Access Control systems entertain vendors with a promising market. Among many different competing vendors, Cisco Systems is one of our choices. We decided like this for many different reasons.
The primary reason is that Cisco systems offer highly advanced Network Access Control solution, Cisco Identity Services Engine ISE, which has all of the above-mentioned features, and much more. This solution offers its user highly flexible deployment options including a Virtual machine-based and appliance-based deployments to fit the needs of the different customers. Cisco ISE can integrate with the rest of Cisco products, including Cisco ASA Next-Generation Firewalls to offer the market’s most complete and robust security solution.
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