The networks and infrastructure we use are changing all the time, and so is the way we interact with them. Even before the pandemic, the infrastructure and technology companies ran on was evolving, and the last 18 months have pushed the need for that evolution into overdrive.
The internet is now seen as a transport network in and of itself. Identity is becoming the new security perimeter for infrastructure, and developments like SD-WAN promise huge productivity increases to tech savvy businesses. Exploiting these opportunities should be viewed as non-negotiable to ensuring secure and productive IT infrastructures in the coming years.
‘The internet is my network’ and the rise of SD-WAN
The explosion in popularity of cloud services over the pandemic has been a hot topic for conversation but remains impressive. With demand for servers outstripping supply and the future still uncertain, the scalability, speed and accessibility the cloud offers won over many new customers in the last 18 months. However, these cloud services require high-speed data access at all times to ensure seamless functionality between processes.
Traditional WANs (Wide Area Networks) weren’t designed with cloud accessibility in mind. While they are secure and useful for prioritising workloads, utilising a WAN involves significant amounts of backhauling through firewalls and other obstacles, slowing down application load times and reducing the overall productivity of those using the network. As more companies use the cloud, these types of networks are increasingly unsuitable for modern business practice.
Software Defined, or SD-WANs remove this need for backhauling traffic through a core network. Instead, they utilise different connections such as broadband and LTE when transferring data across the WAN. This both reduces cost while increasing connectivity speeds and efficiency, enabling branch offices and businesses to utilise cloud and SaaS services such as Office 365 more efficiently and consistently. The secure access service edge (SASE) capabilities of SD-WAN allow them to be billed by usage and scale with you, just like the cloud, while ensuring privacy and security aren’t sacrificed in favour of efficacy.
SD-WAN is a significant development enabling IT teams to create A more cloud friendly and intentional architecture that companies will need to survive in a digital-first, post-covid world.
‘The cloud is my data centre’ and staying safe in the cloud
The cloud has started to rapidly overtake data centres in popularity, both on-premises and co-located. This growth has accelerated dramatically since the onset of the pandemic, with current trends predicting it to continue apace after the pandemic subsides in EMEA at least. With more and more companies realising the cloud is perfectly capable of acting as a data centre, attention must turn to ensuring safety is still the number one concern for any IT team or CTO.
The standard rules of cybersecurity are mostly the same IN the cloud as they are with data centres. Strong passwords that regularly change, mandated two-factor authentication along with intelligent human engineering all remain critical components of good security strategies.
The best piece of advice for maintaining safety while migrating to the cloud is: Don’t go it alone. Cloud migrations leave companies and their data vulnerable to attack as applications and critical records are moved and shifted around. What’s more, companies moving to private clouds often fail to regularly update their security protocols and minimise points of exposure on their new networks to outside intrusion. Partnering with an experienced migration specialist can reduce the costs and time spent solving migration issues and help businesses utilise cutting edge technologies like SASE, ensuring start-to-finish security during migration and beyond. Choosing a public or hybrid cloud solution such as Oracle or AWS means security will regularly update and be checked automatically, leaving the scalability and cost benefits of the cloud with none of the security worries.
‘Identity is my perimeter’ – Moving to identity-based authentication
Remote and hybrid work are here to stay. As well as more time with families and the potential end of the commute, less time in an office also means the way we authenticate ourselves to our networks must change too. With work increasingly moving out of the physical perimeter of the office, network authentication must evolve to match. This change has occurred at the same time as a rise in IoT devices, with employees using increasing numbers of phones and laptops to facilitate remote work. All of this greatly increases the vulnerable ‘attack surface’ that criminals can exploit and penetrate for illicit gains.
Passwords are not enough to protect a network with workers logged in on multiple devices in different locations. Lax authentication practises led to the infamous Mirai malware incident, and ransomware attacks soared 485% last year alone. Ensuring a true ‘zero-trust’ approach is taken to your IT security has to be a number one priority.
With remote work along with potentially multiple clouds hosting different applications and data being stored in different on-premise and off-site locations, the security perimeter is often not a fixed physical space anymore. Identity has to become the new perimeter, and it is the responsibility of IT teams to ensure that their security protocols are designed around identity rather than password or geographic authentication.
This means multi-factor authentication to confirm identity on each device interacting with the network. Key words, unique knowledge tests and regularly changed passwords are all components that can secure companies from the scourge of ransomware and other costly attacks. Staff training, as well, is vital in combatting the human error that causes up to 95% of cyberattacks. With more staff staying away from the office, companies need to take security and training seriously to combat rising threats and avoid the creeping complacency remote work threatens.
How to stay ahead of the curve
The cloud is changing the way IT infrastructure is managed. With data centres moving to the cloud, traditional router-based WANs are being replaced by SD-WANs to create seamless on-ramps to the cloud for forward-looking businesses. The cloud is replacing or supplementing on-premises data centres for thousands of businesses looking for affordability and scalability, and these changes along with the effects of the pandemic are changing the concept of what a security perimeter is. Organisations need to change their security mindsets and protocols to match the new reality and ensure they remain safe from costly cyber-attacks.
Staying on top of these changes alone can be expensive and time-consuming. One oversight on a security patch or a lack of optimisation can lead to critical security threats and organisational inefficiencies. Working with an expert who has the knowledge, experience and resources to manage cutting edge technologies while remaining focused on security can make or break an organisation. With the future uncertain and the threats growing, partnership remains the best way to ensure the best outcomes going ahead.
Rob is an IT professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. In his role at Logicalis, Rob and his team are responsible for the UK’s Cisco strategy, including managing the delivery and pre-sales alliance, as well as staying abreast and managing architecture for a range of customers. Before Logicalis, Rob spent 20 years at Cisco including time as CTO, responsible for the enablement of Cisco’s UK partners and Public Sector Team.