As organisations continue their pursuit of digitisation, no element of an IT environment is immune from modernisation.
Specifically, new technologies are driving efficiency and productivity. The adoption of innovative applications and processes are opening up new ways of working, driving employee satisfaction, and increasing the agility required to adapt to changing market conditions.
Widespread cloud adoption and flexible working policies mean the office is no longer a physical location but is wherever employees can access an Internet connection. However, these trends are increasing the volume and sensitivity of data, placing new challenges on legacy networks and on traditional approaches to security.
What is SD-WAN?
Traditional enterprise networking technologies like Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) connected users in branch or campus locations to applications hosted in centralised servers. Dedicated MPLS circuits ensured data could be accessed securely and reliably.
Such a traditional approach is no longer suitable in the cloud era as the transmission of huge amounts data through a centralised hub creates bottlenecks. These in turn cause delays, decrease productivity, and impact user experience.
As a result, there has been an increased focus on Software Defined-Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) technology.
SD-WAN intelligently routes enterprise traffic across multiple networks in the most efficient way possible. This not only speeds up transmission but also increases reliability as organisations are no longer dependent on a single potential point of failure. SD-WAN is also viewed as more flexible and easier to deploy than MPLS and it can also result in lower OpEx because organisations can replace MPLS services with business broadband.
According to an IDG survey of IT executives, the number of organisations either actively researching or adopting SD-WAN has increased from 69% in 2017 to 90% in 2019. Among the potential benefits cited by respondents were increased efficiency (62%), cost savings (50%), increased agility (49%), and increased redundancy (26%).
Nearly two thirds (60%) also cited increased security as a reason for their interest. SD-WAN can enhance security through the end-to-end encryption of network traffic, increase visibility over devices and infrastructure, and it has AI-based monitoring capabilities that can detect unusual patterns.
The adoption of SD-WAN alone will not make an organisation more secure and introduces new challenges of its own.
New security challenges
As SD-WAN is technologically agnostic, it can route traffic across public and private networking infrastructure. If staff connect directly to the public Internet, then organisations must grapple with the security and compliance issues that result and ensure data and infrastructure are adequately protected at all times.
There is no sense in cutting corners, as any point of weakness could be exploited to stage an attack on the rest of the organisation.
SD-WAN products typically come with basic security features such as a stateful firewall and network segmentation capabilities, but these alone are not sufficient. Organisations must augment the capabilities of SD-WAN with other provisions such as next-generation firewalls, anti-virus, and web filtering.
Many vendors now provide security tools with their SD-WAN offerings, while those that lack the in-house capabilities are partnering with cybersecurity specialists to offer a single integrated solution. This convergence presents an entirely new challenge in understanding what security features are at an organisation’s disposal. Without this understanding, a missing provision might only be noticed after a breach has occurred.
Not only would a data breach be damaging to an organisation’s business and reputation. Regulators and governments do not look upon incidents favourably, especially with GDPR now in effect.
SD-WAN is not a silver bullet when it comes to security. Organisations should still take the same basic measures like regular patching, and should pay attention to elements such as traffic routing.
Organisations that do not have the necessary IT resources or the budget to integrate SD-WAN with additional security in-house, should look for an expert in this field. A trusted partner can combine advanced network technologies with sophisticated security and monitoring, while also assuming responsibility for resolving any reliability issues.
By entrusting security and maintenance to a third party, IT departments are free to focus on innovation projects that drive genuine business change without compromising operational capabilities.
If implemented correctly, SD-WAN can be more efficient, agile and secure than traditional networking. Data is protected whenever it needs to be – not just when it is passing through a centralised hub – and cloud-based applications and devices are protected.
If SD-WAN is to enable more secure digital transformation, then organisations need to have the necessary understanding, capabilities and support in place.
As traditional approaches to IT security become more redundant in the modern workplace, learn how SD-WAN security can assist your organisation. Contact your Insight Account Manager on 0344 846 3333 for more information.