The Secure SD-WANderful Approach to Securing Your Workers at Home and in the Office

As the pandemic persists, the UK Government is encouraging workers to continue working from home in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. This advice comes after a short spout of urging workers to go back to the office in an attempt to boost the economy, meaning that, for a short while, organizations were having to support both those working from home and those in the office.

While it is yet unknown how long the current remote working situation will last, what is clear is the need for organizations to adapt to a new, hybrid way of working where employees can be connected from both the office, and a remote environment.”

To enable employees to work both remotely and in the office means they need reliable, fast and secure connections to the organization’s IT network from wherever they happen to be. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by using a completely cloud-based approach such as Secure SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network).

Segmentation

To enable a hybrid workforce, security is key, and one of the best security practices an organization can put in place is segmentation. This is where an IT network is split into smaller chunks, enabling the IT security team to improve visibility and better control access to all areas down to a granular level. CISOs can segment based on various criteria, including department, seniority and job role which helps prevent unauthorized users from viewing privileged folders and files and also limits the scope for threat actors who will look to move through a network to find valuable assets.

The benefit of using Secure SD-WAN for the segmentation of a network is that it is quick and easy to change, which ultimately benefits a hybrid workforce. Traditional methods such as firewalls and VPNs require network equipment to be reconfigured and if any segments need to be changed to accommodate new employees or those with new roles, it can be both expensive and time consuming.

Conversely Secure SD-WAN enforces a segmentation policy by grouping and tagging network traffic, meaning it can cope with rapid changes to the workforce, including users connecting from both an office and a remote environment.

Implementing Secure SD-WAN further enhances security as this approach provides a single point of control over the entire network. This gives the CISO and security team the granular visibility needed to spot any unauthorized or malicious activity, as well as the capability to perform critical security updates.

Ensuring a great performance

The segmentation Secure SD-WAN enables also helps to improve performance as the amount of traffic to each segment is strictly controlled, meaning that congestion to specific parts of a network are reduced and data can flow more freely. Traffic flow can be further improved by giving application traffic priority to those users that need it most at any given time.

For instance, workers who aren’t able to meet physically need to use collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Such applications can be rendered useless if any of the users experience poor quality sound or video, or there is any kind of delay.

Rather than using a single, often far away data center, Secure SD-WAN uses multiple cloud gateways across the world. This means that wherever they are, workers will always have the fastest access possible to the IT network.

Better interoperability

Limitations of traditional remote working tools could lead to staff using their own ways of working, which will create security issues. For instance, if an employee knows that a file will be difficult to access remotely, while still in the office they might email it to their personal Hotmail or Gmail account so that they can work on it at home. This is not only likely to be a breach of an organization’s security policies, but also leaves sensitive files exposed.

Furthermore, while making changes to the document remotely, the employee might save the latest version on their own computer, which leads to data sprawl and exposes the file even further to risk.

Secure SD-WAN platforms help prevent employees taking matters into their own hands by providing them with the high-speed access and the interoperability they need to access their organization’s network via any device or operating system. This means that even though the employee might be using their own device, they will be able to, for instance, open and save any folder or file they have permission to, without it having to touch their own machine.

Scaling to meet a changing workforce

Finally, as the pandemic continues businesses are likely to have fluctuating numbers of staff working both remotely and in the office as lockdowns tighten and loosen. Due to its virtual nature, Secure SD-WAN can be quickly scaled up or down to cope with an expanding or shrinking workforce or office locations as needed. Users can be easily added or removed from the system as necessary, and remote access can be provided in a matter of minutes without having to replace or add hardware.

Having the ability to quickly add remote users gives organizations the freedom to adjust their workforce and working practices with little notice. The cost of doing so is greatly reduced as businesses no longer have the expense of having to buy and install new equipment for each new remote connection.

The world in which we live and work is a very different place to what it was at the beginning of the year. Those businesses that wish to survive and thrive in the “new normal” need to ensure they have the flexibility to cope with any further, sudden changes that might be thrown at them due to the pandemic. This includes being able to cater for varying numbers of home and office workers without compromising on user experience and employee productivity.

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