Cisco Secure Endpoint Review

Targets issues more accurately, helping us to focus high-cost engineering resources more accurately

What is our primary use case?

We needed an endpoint security product and this was the one that we chose. We also use Cisco Umbrella, which fits in neatly with the endpoint as endpoints are moving, more and more, out of the office now. Traditionally, it's slightly harder to manage that, so we use Cisco AMP and Umbrella on those endpoints to secure them.

It's almost entirely on-premise. Although there are some small cloud installations where we use it.

How has it helped my organization?

The fact that the solution offers cloud-delivered endpoint protection makes it simpler to use. Historically, Cisco's appliances have been relatively expensive and that has been a block to Cisco getting into the SME space, which is our particular focus. Having it cloud-based, where there's no cost, as such, to get the deployment running, has made it easier to sell to small businesses. We've got AMP installations with as few as two users. In the past, with Cisco, we would never have been able to deliver into that size of business without some sort of cloud for delivering it.

It also has a neat web interface that allows us to access it simply and therefore more people are able to manage it, rather than it being a specialist product. We're able to give it to more junior people on the helpdesk and they're able to determine quite quickly and simply what the state of the environment is and, if needed, escalate it to more senior people if they believe there's an issue. That's worked well for us.

We had quite a large client that had a partial AMP installation only covering key assets, and they were hit by ransomware. It was only Cisco AMP that showed where the problems were. The rest of the antivirus that they had across the estate was completely ineffective. AMP was intact and it gave the engineers the vital information they required to remediate the problem. With all attacks what we're interested in is knowing what was "patient zero," where the problem came in, and where it's spread. That can be a challenge sometimes when you've got multiple devices in a network and you're looking across a large number of PCs to work out who was compromised first and, therefore, what the course of action is.

It has decreased our time to remediate. In the scenario of the client that was hit by ransomware, effectively, none of the endpoints were compromised. We were able to detect what the issue was via the AMP client, which discovered and alerted us to what the actual problem was. We then had to do a cleanup process on the remaining. It certainly showed its value to us and the client in that particular incident. It is hard to say how much time it saved us, because in that particular incident they only had a limited deployment. It actually took six man-days to solve the problem, but it didn't affect any of the AMP clients. It arguably could have taken even longer, had they not had AMP deployed on at least some of the assets. It's very simple: If they had had AMP on all of them, they would have probably avoided the problem in the first place. And they certainly wouldn't have needed six days to actually resolve the issue.

Cisco Threat Response accelerates Cisco Umbrella security operation functions. The abilities of Talos are definitely one of the reasons we bought into this as a product. It enables us to react more quickly. We're relying on Cisco providing that updated information in a timely fashion, and that obviously has a knock-on effect on our ability to support our clients if they've been compromised. That ability to push information automatically into Talos and their environment and then prove it's a problem or otherwise, and then update the system automatically, saves us an enormous amount of time. It gives us a lot of confidence in what we do, because Cisco is able to update things and do that part of the function for us, rather than our relying on in-house skills to try to determine what is good and what is bad.

We use it internally, in our business, to secure us, as we are an MSP, which means we are at particular risk. Obviously, we have a duty of care for our clients to ensure that we take the utmost responsibility and steps to secure our businesses and, in turn, secure our clients' businesses. The Cisco suite of security solutions definitely gives us a great deal of comfort that we are doing that. Relying on Cisco for those updates certainly takes a load off my mind, knowing that we've got the backing of Talos across the suite of products. We feel, with all the steps we have taken, that there are very few gaps in our security.

The solution has also made our team more effective by being able to focus on high-value initiatives. We have it integrated into our helpdesk system where it alerts us of things that are of particular concern. That minimizes the amount of time that we're looking at non-threatening situations. A lot of these systems can throw up an awful lot of information and you can end up spending an awful lot of time looking at things that aren't an issue — false positives. If we're able to target things more accurately, it helps us focus that high-cost engineering resource more accurately. It does save time and money.

Cisco AMP has definitely decreased our time to detection, relative to where we were with previous products. Before this type of next-gen solution, we were relying on things like antivirus, which is pretty poor and didn't produce much in the way of protection, certainly around ransomware and other things. We were relying heavily on perimeter protection, like firewalls. That was, of course, completely ineffective when people took their laptops home. The risk was great and we saw more people bringing problems back into the business. The AMP and Umbrella combination has made life a lot more secure and enables us to deliver consistent policy, which is the other important thing. When people are in our building, we've got a reasonably consistent policy because we have greater control. But the minute a person leaves the building and connects via a phone or at an internet cafe, we lose most of the traditional protection we had. The endpoint becomes everything.

The decrease in time to detection has been significant. It's very hard to put a percentage to it because, before it, we were often blissfully unaware that devices had a problem at all. It's given us visibility and we are much more effective. I'm guessing in terms of what it saves time-wise, because it's given us visibility that we otherwise didn't have, but I would say 80 percent, if I had to put a figure on it.

What is most valuable?

It has a number of valuable features. One of them is its ability to look across the estate. If somebody has been compromised, the question always is: How has it affected other devices in the network? Cisco AMP gives you a very neat view of that.

It has worked well where there have been compromises of clients and the software has automatically sent a sample to Cisco. Cisco has very quickly turned that around and an update has been issued and therefore, within an hour, all the devices are protected against it. We've been quite impressed with that.

We're a Cisco-centric organization. We use things like Cisco FirePOWER, the Next Gen features, as well as Umbrella portal and AMP. We've got a SIEM solution and we see all the events. It gives us a very good overall view of what's going on, very quickly.

We get all the alerts fed in centrally and it enables the security team to act upon them quickly. The alerts seem to be high-quality. We don't get an awful lot of false positives. With the dashboards it's clear, and you can understand quickly where the issues are, with instant responses.

The tools provided by the solution to help you investigate and mitigate threats are very helpful too. I'm the person who manages the engineers, so I don't use it on a day-to-day basis. I use it to get an overall view of, and a feeling for, where our various clients are in terms of issues: How secure they are, whether the engineers have been acting upon threats, etc. But our engineers like the product very much. The ability to detonate a particular problem in a sandbox environment and understand what the effects are, is helpful. We're trying, for example, to determine, when people send information in, if an attachment is legitimate or not. You just have to open it. If you can do that in a secure sandbox environment, that's an invaluable feature. What you would do otherwise would be very risky and tedious.

All our engineers have been very impressed with the features that it delivers and the fact that it has been low impact on the endpoints. It hasn't caused us any problems with performance. Generally, it's a very well-liked product amongst the engineering team.

What needs improvement?

Some of the dashboards don't always populate with data. Most of them do, but some of them don't. 

Another issue for me, that would be the greatest value of all, would be to make the security into a single pane of glass. Whilst these products are largely integrated from a Talos perspective, they're not integrated from a portal perspective. For example, we have to look at an Umbrella portal and a separate AMP portal. We also have to look at a separate portal for the firewalls. If I could wave a magic wand and have one thing, I would put all the Cisco products into one, simple management portal. If I were Cisco, that would be my greatest focus of all because it would be of such great value if I could give one pane of glass to an engineer and he could look across all the Cisco products. 

The other thing I would say to Cisco is they need to move more to a consumption model like Office 365, because I want to be able to sell it and deploy it by just adding things on to a particular client.

For example, you set a client up on the AMP portal, which I'm looking at as I speak. I have X number of clients. If I need to sell or deploy Umbrella, I've got to go through a completely different process and enter exactly the same sort of thing. I've got to create the client somewhere else, I've got to put the information somewhere else, and I've got to run the deployment from somewhere else. Whereas with the Office 365 model, I'm able to upgrade packages and add features and functionality all from the one place. That is an incredibly powerful selling tool.

The other area for improvement is to make billing simpler. The billing process for us is hard where we've got those two users. We've got to create a separate bill for those clients and we have to create a separate report to Cisco to say that we're billing those clients. Anything they could do to make that billing process more seamless would be of great value. If they could almost automate it, so that it is something that links in with accounts packages to make the billing process neater, it would help promote the sale of it and make it more profitable to sell. If someone deploys AMP For Endpoints on a client, at the moment that process is very disjointed. We've got to do a check once a month to see how many deployments there are relative to last month and, if we had to add one, we not only have to bill an extra one but we also have to buy an extra one from Cisco. And all that is manual.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Cisco AMP for Endpoints for three years, maybe more.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is very good. We've had no issues with performance or things crashing. That aspect has all been very positive. When doing as much as these products are doing, it can create quite an overhead and take a toll on the performance of PCs, but we have had none of that kind of experience.

We are predominantly a Microsoft environment. I'm aware that it supports Mac, but I don't think we have any installations across Mac environments at the moment. From a Windows standpoint, it works very well. It hasn't caused instability. It hasn't affected performance in a negative way. All those things are really positive, given what it's actually doing.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Without any question it's scalable. We've got it on as few as two, and as many as 250 or so clients. We don't have any questions about scalability.

How are customer service and technical support?

I've not personally used any support around this solution. I don't think we have needed to from an implementation perspective. It's all gone smoothly.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We used Sophos in the past. We're replacing it, so when the renewals come up we replace Sophos with AMP, wherever possible.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is quite simple. We needed a method of delivery and that's the hardest part. But the deployment and the actual tuning of it are relatively minimal, so that has been a good experience. We didn't have to mess about with performance tuning, whereas with other products we have to do quite a lot for excluding this, that, and the other directory, to make sure the performance is reasonable.

If it's a small environment, it's quick to set up because we've got closer management. But in bigger environments, we bump into the challenge — and this is not an AMP issue or an installation issue — of people who are away, or people who haven't restarted their machines. Those sorts of little things tend to be the things that are a little bit more of a pain to get the final installation done. But the rollout of AMP, per se, is quite straightforward. The setup time of AMP isn't an issue and it is quite acceptable. These types of problems would exist with whichever product was chosen.

In terms of an implementation strategy for this product, our security team is very comfortable with rolling it out. The sales process is that we define the client's needs, the number of devices that they intend to secure, and that goes to the security team to coordinate and roll out. That's a reasonably templated process now for us.

In our company, the security team is comprised of four people, and they are the people who primarily look after and manage the products. We also have a deployment team, another three or four people, who are the people that would ultimately push the client out to the various devices that need it.

What was our ROI?

Certainly, from a protection standpoint, we have seen ROI. It's doing what we want it to do and it's protecting us and the clients who have it installed. Neither they nor we have been compromised and that's the greatest testament of all.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

We use the MSP model, so we're able to pay as we go. We report usage based on the actual usage, which is very handy. The old model of Cisco doing it was dated and archaic, and that goes for most of their products. The previous way they did it, which was that you bought something upfront for a certain period, was terrible because of the actual process of updating it. It wouldn't scale down and it was very hard to scale up. When you added users to the system, it wasn't easy to then add licenses to that particular agreement. It was really difficult, in fact; difficult to the point where we stopped selling it in that model, because it was just too problematic.

For example, if we had a user with 10 devices and they bought some more devices, so it went to, say, 15, getting an extra five licenses within their agreement was immensely hard. To me, the only way forward is the MSP model.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at a number of different solutions: Carbon Black, Cylance, Sophos Intercept X and we liked the Cisco AMP solution over those products because it fit in neatly with the rest of the Cisco portfolio. We believe that the management of the various security products fit better with one manufacturer, rather than picking various manufacturers to try and manage a security solution.

The integration of Cisco Threat Response with Cisco Umbrella is getting a lot better. What we like, across the board, is that the solutions are backed by Talos, and Talos is the largest, independent, security-research and threat-hunting organization in the world. We like the fact that the protection is spread across the Cisco environment. That's where this set of products wins when compared to other vendors. It's not that other vendors, like Carbon Black and Cylance, aren't delivering good products. They're just not doing the whole suite. They're not providing the firewall, they're not providing the CASB solution like CloudLock. I'm not sure if they're doing DNS filtering yet; a lot of vendors are catching up on that. But effectively, when you get a known issue, Cisco have the ability to roll it out across a suite of products and therefore you get protection very quickly. So if you discover a problem in Cisco Umbrella, they can update that threat, where need be, in AMP. That's quite a unique selling point for Cisco.

What other advice do I have?

It's very simple to deploy, doesn't cause much in the way of management overhead, and does what it suggests. I would have no hesitation in recommending it. We obviously do, as we're selling it and have been using it for a number of years.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor. The reviewer's company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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