Technology News

Don’t get caught with your WAN down

Businesses are evolving in a fast and furious way and to get ahead of the pack, network connectivity must move at the same pace. 

  • Collaboration from anywhere, anytime, is an important part of evolving business engagement 
  • Traditional, fixed network connections are inflexible and expensive compared to SD-WAN
  • SD-WAN is an Internet carrier-based architecture that can facilitate business enhancement – one of the critical building blocks of digital transformation.
  • The benefit of having SD-WAN with Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) capability on the same fabric is paramount – from total cost of ownership to mitigation of security risk, resulting in improved IT user experience.  
  • SD-WAN with NGFW offers flexibility and scalability in network connectivity, and highly secure business engagement that is no longer dependant on fixed locations. It can further extend secure connectivity within the LAN of these locations.

With globalisation and its accompanying factors, the pace of digital transformation has never been so fast, and it will never be this slow again. If your business is still settling for a business-as-usual network, then you might as well close shop.

The way in which you engage your clientele has come to determine the growth or demise of your business, but what many companies don’t realise is that digital business transformation begins with connectivity, collaboration, and a highly secure IT infrastructure. Effective online engagement and document sharing, considering social distancing, became the new normal overnight.

“When organisations go through a digital transformation and reshapes products, services and business processes, core IT infrastructure and business systems have to become dynamic and cannot be ignored and be left wanting,” explains Hein Witte, a Specialized Sales Executive for Telecommunication Services at Gijima. 

“Companies which are able to strike perfect harmony between digital client engagement, business process renewal and IT innovation, have a much greater chance not only to survive, but to be pacesetting in the race for business expansion. Now more than ever before, businesses need to revamp their network connectivity and leverage bi-directional engagement with clients via a number of e-channels,” says Witte.

Business engagement anywhere, anytime, is a critical part of digital business operations via the Internet, e-mail, SMS, MMS, WhatsApp, and other electronic channels offering customers a variety of platforms to engage with an organisation. 

Witte asserts that “customer buying behaviour has shifted. There’s now a 24-7 demand with increased requirements for self-service. When shopping online, you expect an excellent customer experience and there’s now a big race for organisations to get into a space where they can digitally transact and engage with customers. However, your products and services combined with agile IT services need to accommodate this new business model in support of your desire to grow.”

Yet looking at the corporate space over the past decade, traditional wide area networking (WAN) architectures were predominantly built around fixed locations with fixed capacities – highly structured and hierarchical type of networks. “This means that you typically had a network connection from a branch to a head office, and from head office to the data centre. From the data centre, you might have had secure access into the Internet – very structured, very rigid, fixed capacities,” says Witte. 

WANs based on fixed point-to-point network connections are not only inflexible, but they’re also expensive when compared to Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN), an Internet carrier-based architecture. “With SD-WAN, you have very attractive cost, capacity and performance attributes,” he adds. What’s more is that SD-WAN can facilitate much-needed business engagement within and through the Internet – one of the most important aspects of digital transformation. 

Like WANs, firewalls have also changed. They are no longer just basic security tools for governing traffic flows and access to Internet sites. Next-generation firewalls (NGFW) have extensive IT security controls and are crucial in today’s changing threat landscape, even more so as modern network technologies such as SD-WAN utilise Internet capacity with the capability to facilitate direct Internet access from the periphery of a corporate network, including guest and corporate Wi-Fi. With cybercrime on the rise and legislative requirements, deploying NGFW functionality across a corporate network has become mandatory. 

This is a view also supported by Ken Xie, Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at Fortinet in his article, published by the World Economic Forum. Xie contends that “many companies that had already invested in integrating their software-defined networking in a wide area network (SD-WAN), next-generation firewall (NGFW) technology and multi-cloud deployments into a unified system (are) in a much better position to pivot to the demands of a totally restructured workplace.”

While hosted cloud-based firewall services offer businesses a way to protect their network and Internet traffic securely, the benefit of having SD-WAN combined with NGFW on the same fabric is revolutionary.

SD-WAN necessitates top-level security that is centrally controlled. “In the past you would have a number of point solutions to fulfil comprehensive security requirements, but now with next-generation firewalling, it’s mostly covered in one appliance as unified threat management,” adds Witte. 

Witte explains, “this is when you have SD-WAN capability as well as next-generation firewalling integrated on the same device. It makes the cost of ownership very attractive and allows you to secure your SD-WAN connectivity as well as local area networks and Wi-Fi on the periphery of the WAN service,” explains Witte. “The SD-WAN and next-generation firewall services are centrally managed to enforce corporate IT governance and they also allow you to leverage best cost of ownership alternatives.”

Another key feature that comes with using SD-WAN with NGFW is an improved IT user experience. Someone who is a part of a corporate workforce will benefit hugely from the flexibility in network connectivity, from static to mobile, and highly secure business applications that are no longer dependant on a fixed location. As the pandemic has 

demonstrated, keeping core business applications and other systems on-premises can be challenging. 

“As part of the digitalisation roadmap, organisations need to become less location dependant and move intellectual property into Internet accessible spaces such as cloud services. SD-WAN is an internet carrier-based WAN, so it allows businesses to become far more flexible,” adds Witte. “A distributed workforce, whether in sales, distribution or even client support, need to have access to corporate business systems to participate and serve clients. You need capacity that can scale, supports mobility and it has to be highly-secure.”

The implementation of the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act also means that organisations can no longer risk not having the best security systems in place to ensure their clients’ personal data. SD-WAN with NGFW eases the task of establishing fully controllable, secure private networks. “When you build a virtual corporate network across the Internet, you have great connectivity advantages but also so much more security breach risk. Protection is therefore of utmost importance,” he says.

According to Witte, traditional corporate networks are not geared to deal with the digitalization that’s happening. Providing a fixed carrier connection to a location, for example, can take up to three months if not longer whereas an internet carrier-based SD-WAN connection can be done much quicker. 

Witte further states that, “management of corporate networks has also shifted to another level. As IT user experience in support of clients, and digital business engagement have become of supreme importance for growth, corporates can no longer rely on device-level monitoring and management. Intelligent probes simulating user behaviour, including the testing of 3-way handshake and performance across the entire business application landscape, have to be applied throughout distributed networks to assure improved user and client experience.” 

“Business will continue to evolve, they will digitalise, they will operate virtual and with distributed business models… not only due to the pandemic, but because today’s businesses require less location-based facilities and need to be everywhere, anytime. If you’re not 

implementing SD-WAN right now, you’re burning cash and will get caught with your WAN down,” he concludes.

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