Server Hardening 101: Boosting Business Security

Post by
Net Friends

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may not have the same resources as larger organizations to dedicate full-time staff to cybersecurity. Nevertheless, it does not diminish the importance of safeguarding your business from cyber threats. Think of your cybersecurity strategy in the same way you approach securing your vehicle. Just as it is wise to lock your car when you leave it in a parking lot, it is crucial to prepare your business to face potential cyber challenges head-on.

Ensuring the security of your server is comparable to the simple act of locking your car and keeping it in a garage, rather than leaving it vulnerable on the street.

Understanding Server Hardening

Put simply, the term 'server hardening' refers to configuring your server properly. A properly configured server will reduce the chances that your server can be hacked or misused. The main benefit of hardening servers is to repel cyber threats by reducing attack surface area on your systems. Not hardening servers can result in critical issues, such as data breaches and business outages, and can damage a company's reputation and financial stability. In contrast, a fortified server secures corporate information and supports ongoing business operations.  

A multi-faceted approach to server hardening includes:

  • Securing Server Location: Ensuring servers are housed in a safe environment, with ideal conditions and restricted access to authorized personnel only.
  • Controlling Access Permissions: Implementing the principle of least privilege ensures that only necessary personnel have access to critical systems and configurations, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
  • Restricting Roles, Features, & Services: Many functions are not disabled by default or might not be necessary to deliver the required functions your business needs. Proper server hardening will restrict or remove unnecessary functions from each server.
  • Managing Configurations: Ongoing management and change control ensures no unexpected configuration, permission, or access changes occur.
  • Securing User Accounts: Keeping user credentials confidential, strong, and unique, complemented by multi-factor authentication (MFA), enhances security.
  • Applying Patches: Regularly updating software to patch vulnerabilities protects against newly uncovered exploits.
  • Removing Unnecessary Software: Uninstalling unused applications reduces security risks and simplifies management.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Vigilant monitoring of server activity allows for the detection of unusual activity, unauthorized logins, and potential breaches.
  • Reporting: Making sure all stakeholders are regularly informed about the server's status and notable events is important for ensuring issues are resolved promptly.

Roles & Responsibilities

There are several roles that are crucial for ensuring your server operates efficiently, securely, and reliably.

Here is a breakdown of key roles and their associated duties:

System Administrator

This person will manage the server setup and configuration, maintenance duties, performance monitoring, etc.  While Net Friends will fill this role for your organization, we also recommend that one person from your organization have this level of access.

Business Criticality Stakeholder

This stakeholder, generally the business contact for Net Friends, understands how critical the server is to the core business operations and functions. They know that the degradation or outage of the server would cause significant harm to the business. This person is responsible for knowing how much the business relies on the data available on the server, and how long the business can tolerate it if the server was degraded or offline.

General User(s)

This group of users relies on the server to complete their work tasks.  


This role includes all 3rd parties other than Net Friends who directly contribute hardware, software, or cloud services for your server. Typically, there are multiple vendors. They are accountable for providing a high-quality product that includes ongoing product support and product updates.

Each role plays a critical part in maintaining the overall health and performance of the server environment.

Key Considerations for Server Hardening

1. Maintaining Vigilance After Changes

Testing for vulnerabilities after making changes to a server is a critical step in safeguarding the network's integrity. Each update or modification, even those intended to enhance performance or add features, can inadvertently create new vulnerabilities, or expose the system to unforeseen threats.  

Net Friends Pro-Tip:

Conducting Vulnerability Assessments post-change identifies security gaps before they can be exploited by malicious actors.

This process ensures that the changes do not compromise the security posture of the server, and it supports the ongoing effort to protect sensitive data and maintain system integrity.

2. Documenting Changes  

Documenting changes to your server is crucial for maintaining the integrity and stability of your IT infrastructure. Each alteration, no matter how small, can have a ripple effect on system performance and security. By keeping a meticulous record of updates, additions, or removals, you create a detailed history of the server's configuration. This documentation becomes invaluable when troubleshooting issues, as it enables an understanding of recent changes that might be contributing to the problem.

Net Friends Pro-Tip:

If a change inadvertently introduces vulnerabilities or compatibility issues, having a log makes it easier to roll back to a previous state without guesswork, minimizing downtime, and maintaining service continuity.

3. Reporting  

Reporting on your server is essential for several reasons, primarily for ensuring operational efficiency, security, and compliance. Regular reports provide an ongoing record of server performance, including uptime, resource utilization, and service status. These reports help your business identify trends and patterns, to enable proactive management of resources to prevent overloads, bottlenecks, or downtimes. By analyzing server reports, administrators can make informed decisions about upgrades, scaling, and maintenance, ensuring the server infrastructure meets the current and future demands of the organization effectively.

Compliance is another critical area where server reporting is indispensable. Many industries are governed by strict regulatory requirements that mandate the logging and auditing of access to sensitive data.

Net Friends Pro-Tip:

Server reports can provide the necessary documentation to demonstrate compliance with regulations and can be indispensable during audits.

In essence, server reporting is not just a tool for maintaining the day-to-day health of server infrastructure; it's also a strategic asset for risk management and regulatory adherence.

Many Cybersecurity Insurance policies require significant reporting and one of the key features of NetSafe Servers is the ability to provide reporting that will satisfy insurance requirements. This will also give you proof that your server was protected and make your insurance claim much smoother if there is an attack.

Asking the Right Questions

Selecting a dedicated IT support provider who values server hardening is a pivotal step for a business leader. To ensure you choose a team whose security practices align with your business’s needs.

The first step is to assess your requirements, then you will be able to evaluate the provider. Be sure to consider their experience, approach, scalability, communication, and contracts. We always recommend gathering client references so you can make an informed choice that aligns with your business objectives. Remember, the right IT support provider will not only resolve issues, but also become a valuable partner, supporting your growth and success in the digital age.

Server hardening gives you the peace of mind when you leave on Friday afternoon or walk in on Monday morning to know you have done everything in your power to ensure IT security.

Just like that feel you have knowing that your vehicle tucked into a nice secure garage when you are on vacation. We know cybersecurity planning can be overwhelming. Remember, you are not alone when you have an expert on your side. Give us a call to improve your server security!

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