E-Handbook: Why, and how, to merge your SD-WAN and security strategies Article 4 of 4

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How SD-WAN security can boost your network security strategy

Many organizations say security is a top priority for their business, but most lack the necessary resources to thoroughly secure their networks and cloud services. SD-WAN could help.

Realistically, networks cannot exist without network security. Yet, most organizations don't have a significant budget or dedicated staff to accommodate their security needs.

Many organizations -- SMBs, in particular -- often address only the most basic concerns in their network security strategies. This is because they lack the budget, staff and time needed to expand their workforces and businesses, according to the "2019 SMB IT Security Report" from Untangle Inc., a network security provider based in San Jose, Calif.

SMB network and security teams are expected to do more with less and maintain secure, reliable network connectivity and performance. And, as organizations expand to include branch offices and remote workers, their network security strategy should transform, as well. But many teams lack the necessary security resources, even as network security threats and breaches worsen, according to the survey.

Untangle surveyed more than 300 global SMBs about their network security strategies, and explored how technologies like cloud services and software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) are changing security game plans. While adoption is still growing, both cloud and SD-WAN technologies can benefit organizations as they build new network security strategies, according to the survey.

SD-WAN security, cloud services enhance network security

While only 24% of respondents said they have or plan to deploy SD-WAN in their organization, SD-WAN has several security benefits for businesses. SD-WAN functions as a virtual overlay over existing WAN links, so network teams aren't required to drastically change their network infrastructure to gain the optimized bandwidth and centralized management SD-WAN offers.

According to the Untangle survey, 52% of respondents said their organization lacks a dedicated security team or staff member.

SD-WAN security can help improve network connectivity performance and management, regardless of site location or connectivity provider. The SD-WAN management console provides visibility into connectivity, performance, user authentication and traffic type. Teams can also remotely program and provision new resources and sites, which can benefit SMBs as they expand to different locations.

Another driver for increased network security is the broader use of public and private cloud services. As enterprises run more applications and workloads in cloud environments, they need to ensure secure traffic and user access. According to Untangle, 74% of respondents said they deployed their network infrastructure in a cloud environment. Private and public cloud environments can benefit storage and network resources and improve other business processes, yet many respondents also noted public cloud services as a pain point.

Despite the benefits of cloud environments -- such as an easier ability to adopt network transformation processes as business needs change -- and the imperative to secure cloud traffic, 63% of respondents said they don't have a firewall in their public cloud environment. This makes them more susceptible to attacks, Untangle said.

That's where SD-WAN can come in as an attractive option, as SD-WAN's secure connectivity can help protect against cybersecurity attacks. Teams can use SD-WAN to configure security policies, encrypt and segment traffic for cloud-specific traffic.

SD-WAN will soon be essential to establish and maintain secure connections between an organization's headquarters and its remote workers and branch offices, the report said. As organizations move away from legacy, on-premises infrastructure, SD-WAN and cloud environments will likely become the new normal.

What the SMB network security strategy needs

Despite their lack of firewalls in cloud environments, respondents cited the top three features for network security services as firewalls, virus and malware protection, and identity access management. Yet, a small majority of those surveyed said they spend less than $1,000 annually on security, and 52% said they lack a dedicated security team or staff member. Instead, employees from other teams tackle security issues, the report said.

More than 55% of respondents said recent security breaches affected their organization's network security strategy. However, they lacked the necessary resources to understand these threats -- for example, 32% of respondents said they have employees who don't follow IT security policies and guidelines. This makes SMBs easy targets for threats and hackers, and SMB teams may not fully understand why that is or how to prevent attacks.

Overall, the report showed that while many organizations now deploy network infrastructures in cloud environments, these services aren't as secure as they could be. SD-WAN security can help, with its incentives of secure connectivity and simplified network management.

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