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Building a Lab
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The nature of the testing lab itself depends on a variety of factors, including the size
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and nature of the organization, the amount of testing to be done, the complexity of the
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network, and the duration of the testing process. Security configuration testing is not
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the only part of designing and constructing a network in which a lab environment is
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useful. You can use a lab for any or all of the following purposes:
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Developing the overall design of the network
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Evaluating hardware and software products
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Planning performance and capacity
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Determining bandwidth requirements
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Establishing administrative policies
Training users and support staff
Documenting deployment and administration procedures
For a large organization, a permanent lab installation can be a worthwhile investment
that enables network administrators to continually evaluate upgrades and new technol
ogies, in preparation for their deployment on the live network. For organizations that
are not quite so large, or that have limited budgets, the lab can be an ad hoc arrange
ment that consists of computers and other equipment that administrators will later
deploy in a production environment.
The object of creating a lab is to duplicate the organization s live computing environ
ment as closely as possible, within practical limits. For some organizations, a simple
isolated local area network (LAN), consisting of a handful of computers connected to
a hub, is sufficient. For larger organizations, a more elaborate lab setup might be nec
essary. For example, if your network consists of offices at remote locations connected
by wide area network (WAN) links, you might want to integrate the WAN links into
your lab environment as well.
Lesson 1
Creating a Testing and Deployment Plan
10-5
Real World WAN Testing
While it would be impractical for most organizations to install expensive WAN con nections solely for testing purposes, there are other ways to incorporate WAN links into your lab network. For a new network rollout, you might be able to use the WAN connections for the production network during a preliminary testing phase, and then use the same connections for the live deployment when you have com pleted the testing. You can also substitute lower cost WAN technologies in the lab for the real ones on the production network. For example, if your network design calls for T-1 leased lines to connect your offices, you can create a reasonable facsimile of the live network in the lab using modems and dial-up connections. Obviously, this type of arrangement does not enable you to test technology-dependent elements such as WAN bandwidth utili zation, but it can provide a more accurate representation of your live production network than you could achieve with LAN technology alone. Creating a WAN testing environment using actual WAN links obviously requires that you disperse the testing facilities among your network locations. Depending on the needs of your organization, you might want to build a lab network at each site, so that the staff at each location can use its own lab network for its own test ing and training operations, or you can create a satellite installation at each site, accessible through remote control and intended only to provide a terminus for the WAN connection.
Conducting the Tests
The ease or difficulty of the actual testing process depends largely on the amount of detail in your test plan. If you create highly specific test cases with step-by-step instruc tions for the testing procedure, virtually anyone can do the testing, as many times as needed. If your test cases are more general, you might have to count on the insight of the particular individuals who perform the tests to determine the results. The first step of the testing process is to configure the computers and other compo nents required for the test according to the specifications in your test case. Once you have created the environment you need, you can begin the actual testing.
Tip In many cases, you can use this configuration process as an opportunity to test your deployment plans for hardware, software, or configuration settings. This is just one way you can integrate testing your security configuration into a comprehensive program of testing network administration and rollout.
10-6
10
Deploying Security Configurations
When testing security configurations, your two main objectives are to determine whether the parameter settings you have chosen provide the security you need and whether the settings interfere with normal operation of the network. Your test cases should include procedures that duplicate all the network s standard functions with the security parameters in place. For example, you should have testers run all the applica tions and access all the network shares your users need, to ensure that the security parameters don t inhibit access to these resources. Then, the testers should attempt to bypass the security measures you have implemented, to see if they are secure enough, and duplicate typical user errors, such as incorrect logon passwords, to document the system s reaction.
Evaluating the Results
One of the most important elements of the testing process is careful documentation of every action and its results. Once the testing process is finished, you should have a complete record of everything that occurred, to be used in evaluation. With detailed test cases and well-documented test results, it is even possible for individuals not involved in making the decisions to do the testing, leaving the evaluation to the orga nization s policy makers. As a result of the testing, you might decide that your security configuration parameters are acceptable as is, or you might have to modify them, in which case you should repeat the tests using the new settings. It is when you have to repeat the tests that you realize the benefits of creating detailed test cases. When you document the testing pro cedures completely, you can repeat them exactly and compare the results with the original tests.
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