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There’s plenty for businesses and their employees to like about a hybrid work model that brings people back to the office to reconnect in person while still honoring their desire for the flexibility to work remotely. On the other hand, it promises employers a more productive, engaged workforce.
However, embarking on a hybrid work strategy raises an important tech question for organizations to consider: Do we have the right cybersecurity measures in place to protect our communications network, data and users in a fast-shifting remote environment where more surfaces are vulnerable to attack because of remote working?
A large share of organizations evidently can’t answer that question with a decisive “Yes.” A March 2022 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Windstream Enterprise found that more than half of business and technology leaders aren’t fully satisfied with the range of security services and offerings their wide-area network provides.
For many organizations, the best counter to the increasing cybersecurity risks that accompany remote working may well be a security technology known as SASE. Short for Secure Access Service Edge, SASE is quickly gaining traction in a range of industries for its ability to provide a versatile, comprehensive set of tools to protect against all-too-common distributed denial of service (DDoS), ransomware attacks and other cybersecurity threats.
SASE is a fabric of interlaced, cloud-native network and security components, enabling businesses to adapt to constantly shifting users, applications and work environments while keeping all application and security policies synchronized with these changing endpoints. The components of SASE — Firewall as a Service (FWaaS), Secure Web Gateways (SWG), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) — form a unified framework to intercept, inspect, secure and optimize all traffic across a network. Used in tandem with SD-WAN (a software-defined wide-area network), SASE — also termed “zero-trust edge” — can provide persistent connectivity and security wherever an organization’s users and resources are.
Is your organization a good candidate for SASE? Here are six indicators that suggest it could be:
1. The perimeters of your organization’s communications network are shifting rapidly as employee and customer priorities change. With a high level of fluidity in work environments, application demands, and access and bandwidth requirements, traditional WANs lack the flexibility and reach to protect an enterprise and its various offices against the escalating threats and vulnerabilities that remote work brings.
How SASE can help: It integrates multiple security perimeters to protect against multiple cyber threats simultaneously, with the ability to keep all applications and security policies synched to changing network endpoints.
2. Your organization lacks visibility into and control over network performance and security protocols and policies. Far too many organizations lack real-time insight into the workings of their network, making it difficult to monitor and manage security policies as well as application performance. In the Forrester Consulting report, for example, nearly six in 10 IT and line-of-business leaders indicated they aren’t satisfied with their WAN’s ability to provide real-time visibility into network and application performance.
How SASE can help: It can help organizations to “see” security risks in real time — and manage security policies across the enterprise.
3. Relying on a patchwork of disparate devices and software for network security creates gaps and vulnerabilities, and consistently high CAPEX. Cobbled-together legacy communications equipment and software not only invite hackers, they can be costly to maintain and support.
How SASE can help: SASE can protect an organization’s data and systems from unwanted access right out to the network edge. And because it’s a cloud-based service, SASE can enable organizations to reclassify cybersecurity from a capital expenditure to a more predictable operating expense.
4. Your organization knows it could benefit from a comprehensive network security solution, but lacks the resources, expertise and/or desire to manage network security itself.
How SASE can help: Managed security solutions such as SASE hold great appeal for organizations that, due to resource limitations or other strategic reasons, prefer to hand responsibility for overseeing the complexities of network security to an expert. SASE puts network monitoring, analysis, response, consultation, tech upgrades, etc., in the hands of a tech partner and advisor.
5. Your organization recognizes it needs a more sophisticated solution to protect its network and data and support its hybrid working plan, and wants its IT team to play an active, hands-on role in managing network security.
How SASE can help: Organizations that have a mature, well-resourced and security-savvy IT team can gain all the protective benefits of SASE, while preserving their team’s ability to play an active role in monitoring and managing network security.
6. Your organization already has experience with some of the components of SASE. If your organization currently uses an SD-WAN, it already has experience with the type of network that provides the foundation for SASE (SASE functions as a security overlay on top of SD-WAN). What’s more, your organization may already be deploying some of the individual security components of SASE.
How SASE can help: If your organization and its IT team are comfortable with SD-WAN and its integrated security components, there’s a good chance they’ll be comfortable with SASE, too. SASE can also accommodates phased-in implementation, so organizations can try one or two security elements before committing to using them all.
Even before the pandemic made remote work the norm for many organizations, SASE was touted as an enterprise’s best long-term answer to mounting cyber threats. Now, with hybrid workplaces expected to endure for the foreseeable future, and with SASE having matured into a practical here-and-now solution, organizations can better protect their communications network, data and users.
Mike Frane is the VP of Product Management at Windstream Enterprise and is responsible for the company’s overall SD-WAN and Security strategy, as well as the network and LAN service portfolios. Since joining the organization in 2008, he’s overseen the launch and lifecycle of services including LTE wireless, Ethernet and MPLS IPsec access elements, Secure WiFi & Analytics, Application Performance Optimization, IPsec VPN, and Unified Communications. Frane has a BS in Genetics and Cellular Biology from the University of Minnesota and was involved in gene therapy research at the Institute of Human Genetics before entering the telecommunications industry.
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