Strategies For Extending the Enterprise Network to Remote Workers

The shift to remote work caused major disruptions during the height of the pandemic. As companies now regain momentum by way of hybrid work, can the same be said for their security plans and network architecture?

Network congestion was already a recurring issue pre-pandemic, only to be exacerbated over the last 18 months as the demand grew due to the distribution of teams. Adding further complexity is the fact that cloud-based app usage continues to increase, entailing lesser reliance on the enterprise network. 

With Distribution Come Risks

Research from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) revealed that 90.7% of the 312 IT professionals surveyed said they hoped to provide employees with a UX designed especially for remote work that can be comparable to on-premise systems. 

At the start of the pandemic, the top priority was to ensure that everyone is linked to the cloud primarily through VPNs or their home networks. However, these individual networks pose a bigger challenge. As cybersecurity experts at Axonius helpfully explain, when employees work through different devices using different networks, more security risks and other issues emerge, and they become increasingly more difficult to track. 

Here are the key areas to focus on to ensure that your networks are well-fortified for hybrid work.

Scaling Up your VPN

While VPNs are secure enough for enterprise applications, they may not be suitable for most video conferencing and streaming tools. This is due to the lack of direct employee access to cloud services, which then results in longer waiting times as meeting traffic is run through the VPN. 

As an alternative, using a cloud-based VPN provides employees with easier and secure access to apps outside of your enterprise systems. As opposed to traditional VPNs, cloud VPNs are more cost-effective, globally accessible, and do not require additional infrastructure from the user’s end.

Furthermore, securing an employee’s personal computer is also critical, as it only takes one unsecured endpoint to compromise the security of the entire network. An example of a solution to this is SASE, an approach that integrates WAN and network security services into a unified, cloud-based security framework. SASE works on security models adopting a zero trust approach so that it can further filter out unverified users continuously and in real-time.

Optimizing Your Network

Network connectivity continues to be the lifeblood of remote and hybrid work. As more teams shift to a hybrid work model, more cloud applications are used. The challenge? Each of these applications have different connectivity requirements and latency tolerance. 

Complexities like these make 82% of IT leaders feel hindered in making networks suitable for the cloud. To address this, a secure SD-WAN helps manage traffic in your network, provides easier access to the cloud, and secures applications without compromising user experience. 

In the case of enterprises, they may be more tolerant of higher latencies for applications like Salesforce, but not so much for applications used in F&A and customer support. Low latency is particularly required for finance applications, as revenue will heavily depend on real-time market and trading data.

Moreover, if you have teams in different geographical locations, it is advisable to use the these network optimization techniques:

  • Employ a distributed cloud architecture for delay-sensitive apps — this accelerates client-server access wherever they may be located.
  • Have network engineers run an assessment on end-to-end application performance.
  • Use modern NPM tools to identify and optimize distributed resources for smoother data flow.
  • Use a software-defined framework in putting up optimization policies across the whole network.

Final Thoughts

Building network resilience is crucial in this era of hybrid work, and IT and security teams must be able to work hand-in-hand in leveraging the needed technologies for the business, users, and the network. Connectivity to the network is a top priority at the moment, and measures should be taken to provide teams with seamless and secure access to these technologies.

Read Next: Securing Digital Transformation: How to Minimize Risk in the Cloud

Photo by Christopher Gower on Unsplash

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