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Optimising your network for 2021 and beyond

12 Apr 2021

Alex Connors

Head of Portfolio Strategy,
Vodafone Business

What will your business look like in six months’ time? What about in a year?

If someone had asked you that question in 2019, you might have had a clear idea of what the answer would be.

The pandemic has changed things, shifting the gears of business overnight. Suddenly, organisations all over the world had to adapt at an unprecedented speed in order to keep pace with the upheaval happening around them.

As local restrictions and government guidelines continue to alter, it is clear that no one knows what “normal” will look like in the coming months, but that doesn’t mean your business can’t take steps to prepare.

The question of security

Even before COVID-19 hit, enterprises were wrestling with complex and expensive networking environments. The disruption caused by coronavirus has added another layer of complexity to those environments.

Businesses have moved applications to the cloud, sped up digital transformation and most employees are working from home, where possible. Something that is predicted to last long-term.

These changes are having a profound effect on the role of business networks and cybersecurity.

With the working perimeter blurring, more data and applications are being accessed from multiple remote locations, using different devices, raising significant challenges.

In fact, enforcing corporate security policies on remote users has been identified as the second most common security challenge for businesses this year.

Security solutions need to work across all endpoints, irrespective of the user, location or device.

This is where Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) can help.

Bringing access closer to the edge

SASE is the next step for business protection in an age of increased home working and fragmented locations.

It is about bringing security enforcement closer to the employee and applying all of the necessary security policies and protections as early in the traffic path as possible.

Building on existing architecture, it can standardise security capabilities across an entire organisation, working from the edge in, rather than the other way around. It illuminates weak spots, increases traffic visibility by monitoring everything and improves the employee experience by reducing the time it takes for them to get to the information they need.

How does it work?

Thanks to Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), we can now have compute functions much closer to the user and significantly reduce the responsiveness of the network.

Employees will target the nearest edge node where their session is authenticated. They will then be verified by the SASE platform and sent across the most appropriate network to get them to their destination faster.

This means you can perform more functions in the same amount of time and deliver a more secure access method for employees.

Secure Access Service Edge includes many security solutions you may have heard of such as Data Loss Prevention, Secure Web Gateway, Virtual Private Networks and Zero-Trust Network Access. Bringing them together, they provide a holistic approach to network access, keeping data safe and employees protected.

91% of businesses expect SASE to simplify management and security, while 86% experienced increased security as a result of adopting this solution.

It isn’t just about security though.

What about the network? How can businesses achieve the same level of flexibility, scalability and speed of implementation for the network that they are experiencing with cloud applications and services?

An agile network

SD-WAN could be the answer. Working like an ‘overlay’ virtual solution that can be placed on top of your existing network, SD-WAN gives you immediate visibility and control of network traffic. This adds intelligence to your network, giving a level of flexibility and control businesses simply haven’t had before.

IT teams can see where the demand is and solve issues before they become a significant problem by changing network policies, bandwidth or implementing new network features. Additionally, a virtual network environment makes it easier to update your security measures and react quickly to threats, across all sites, devices and the cloud.

Although the pandemic has brought significant upheaval, it has highlighted the vital role that networking technology plays in modern society and forced businesses to adapt, seeking more flexible and resilient systems.

In the next few years, we will begin to see an integration of different elements of the network and the rise of autonomous networks that can detect when things need to change and automatically adapt. For example, if a cyberattack is detected, it can change the firewall in response or if the network is operating at 90% capacity, it can change the bandwidth available.

Having the right infrastructure in place to make the most of these new capabilities is key to future-proofing your business.

Find out more about building business resilience, cybersecurity and SD-WAN.

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