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What Is a Network Segment?

As the nature of threats to your customers’ networks and proprietary data evolves, it’s important to design digital environments that can better secure networks from external and internal risks. From cybercriminals breaching business networks through security lapses, to disgruntled employees stealing sensitive information they shouldn’t have had access to in the first place, a lot can go wrong if networks aren’t properly secured.

With network segmentation, however, your customers can stand a better chance of containing these threats. By isolating aspects of business networks from one another—say, separating the resources employees need to do their jobs from payroll information—a network segment makes it possible to more effectively control who has access to what. While this is a must when it comes to governing access internally, it can also help mitigate the threats from cyberattacks. If bad actors compromise one part of a network, segmentation means they haven’t compromised all of it.

If you think that your customers could benefit from network segmentation, take the time to learn more about this strategic aspect of network design. By knowing the network segment definition, understanding how to segment a network, and appreciating the benefits of doing so, you can help protect important proprietary information from a wide range of bad actors.

How do you segment a network?

So, what is a network segment and how do you set one up? Essentially, segmenting a network requires specific hardware in order to set up particular subnetworks. While these will vary depending on your project goals and budget, switches, hubs, and routers are typically the building blocks for network segmentation basics. By connecting network devices such as computers and servers to this hardware, managed services providers (MPSs) can begin to create discrete subnetworks that can offer users a diverse array of benefits.

For example, connecting computers to switches that are then connected to routers can help mitigate network congestion. For networks that are unsegmented or that aren’t segmented enough, it’s possible for data packets to collide during transmission. When this happens, multiple transmissions can be garbled, degrading the experience for end users.

Network segments work to prevent this. By separating the logical areas on a network where these collisions occur, data packets can travel more freely. However, each network segment can only have so much bandwidth. This depends in large part on the network hardware used to set up that network segment, but it does mean that segmentation isn’t a one-and-done solution.

What is a network segment diagram?

Network diagrams map out the relationships of different assets across a digital environment. Because a diagram that mapped out every single relationship, hardware, and protocol across a business’s network would be incredibly detailed, network diagrams are typically separated into layers to make them easier to understand. For network segment diagrams—typically included in layer three—MSPs map out how segmentation has insulated given logical areas of a network from one another.

Ideally, once the layers of a network diagram are completed, the layer with the network segments will help show how information passes throughout a digital environment, who has access to which logical areas, and what hardware helps make this all possible. By taking the time to carefully create network segment diagrams, stakeholders will have an easier time troubleshooting whatever issues come up, setting up firewall protocols, and more.

What is an IP segment?

Each IP address is broken down into bits that provide critical information related to corresponding devices. Indeed, every device connected to a network receives an IP address and those bit segments relate to network interface and location addressing. For networks that are segmented, IP addresses typically include bit segments that locate devices within subnetworks. These network segment IP address values are determined based on where a given device is located within a local area network (LAN), which corresponds with how that device connects to the wider network and internet.

If you’re an MSP interested in network segmentation, it helps to have a tool that automates some of the work involved. With SolarWinds® RMM, you can take advantage of network discovery, network monitoring, and NetPath infrastructure visibility to help successfully deploy network segmentation on your customers’ networks.


Explore other network management tactics on our blog.

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