How To Update Your Communications Tech For A Remote Working World.
The Covid-19 pandemic has turned organisations inside out. Instead of traditional in-house working practices, large numbers of staff continue to work remotely, at least part of the time.
This massive disruption has meant that we needed to quickly adapt our working environment – and in particular, our IT and communications. It has led, in the immediate response period, to an interesting hybrid: while employees were dispersed and applications delivered through the cloud, business networks and security were still tied to physical sites.
As organisations emerge from this global upheaval, they face a significant challenge in implementing more effective long term communication solutions that support this new work-anywhere environment.
Seeking to solve the puzzle of security for the hybrid working model? Download and read our guide: Creating an Industry-Leading Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) proposition.
The Future of MPLS and SD-WAN Models
Until recently, multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) has been the mainstay of many corporate networks. It allows businesses to direct communications relatively securely across remote sites, with reduced network congestion and a better end-user experience.
However, because MPLS routes all traffic through network hubs – typically, located in offices – an MPLS-based model causes a communications bottleneck when the majority of staff are working remotely. To solve this issue, many businesses have begun directing traffic through the cloud, which allows not only for more direct communication, but scalability as well.
Another downside of MPLS is that it requires businesses create predetermined routes which are not easy to change. This inflexibility, paired with the fact that many physical offices and sites are now empty, means that MPLS simply doesn’t translate well to the wider variety of remote working environments.
Software-defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) can in many cases be an improvement over MPLS, due to their ability to leverage any type of traffic. Further, the ability to apply policies across all WAN devices has been seen by some as meaning SD-WAN models can deliver in a post-pandemic world. However, SD-WAN technologies are still often site-based, so organisations are finding it difficult to utilise them within new remote working frameworks.
Can We Still Depend On Centralised Firewalls?
Then, there are security concerns. Pre-pandemic, when most work was office or site-based, centralised firewalls were the gold standard of network security. However, now that the previously small number of sites have been replaced by hundreds or thousands of distributed endpoints, centralised security tools have become not only impractical, but often completely ineffective.
This has been a major challenge for organisations who have traditionally depended on centralised firewalls for data protection. Shifting from this model, in addition to VPNs and other traditional access and security technologies, seems to be a daunting task.
With centralised firewalls, MPLS, and SD-WAN models becoming more difficult to justify within new working structures, businesses are increasingly finding themselves at a crossroads: continue with the old models, or onboard new technology?
SASE: A New Approach
The good news is that organisations may not have to make such a cut-and-dried decision. In fact, there’s a solution which combines the tried-and-tested benefits of SD-WAN with a more scalable and flexible solution – with software-defined security controls placed close to the user, to optimise performance while protecting the business. That solution is…
The term was first coined by Gartner to describe a collection of edge technologies that “combines network security functions such as Secure Web Gateways (SWG), Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB), Firewall as a Service (FWaaS), and Zero Trust Network Architecture (ZTNA) with WAN capabilities (i.e. SD-WAN) to support the dynamic secure access needs of organisations.”
This unified and scalable cloud architecture helps to ensure organisations have the capacity and control they need for an increasingly mixed working model. It reduces complexity and costs, all while strengthening security by delivering controls as close to the end user as possible. Security controls can be set on a per-user, per-application, per-device or even per-connection level; the same user may be able to access an application on their phone from their home, but not when on the coffee shop wi-fi.
While some businesses have quickly realised the benefits, others are concerned about the potential complexity of implementing SASE, and putting in place all the different controls. That’s something we’ve addressed in Connect’s SASE solution. It’s been designed and built in a way that minimises deployment effort and operational risk. The solution meets all of Gartner’s criteria and is built on Connect’s established, high-performance global network.
Because we own and manage our SASE platform end-to-end, you can be sure of quality, performance, and compliance, wherever your organisation is operating.
You can bring your own SIP, or use ours: you’ll benefit from faster, more reliable, highly secure connectivity between employees, cloud platforms, apps, and other IT resources.
As it becomes increasingly clear that the future working world will be a hybrid one, organisations are taking further steps to adapt their communications and technology to ensure staff can be as productive – and work as a securely – as possible. Older MPLS, SD-WAN, and security frameworks are no longer sufficient, but thankfully, SASE is helping organisations regain their footing in this new world.
At Connect, we can help make this transition straightforward. To learn more about our SASE proposition, and why Connect is the ideal partner for your business, take a look at our guide.