As organizations adapt to the new normal, the changes in how daily business is conducted create significant challenges for regulatory compliance. Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and secure access service edge (SASE) provide organizations with the tools they need to meet and overcome these challenges.
The Modern Enterprise is Distributed
In the past, most organizations had very centralized IT infrastructure. Most of their data and applications were hosted in on-premises infrastructure, and their employees worked from the office on computers connected directly to the corporate network. This made cybersecurity and regulatory compliance relatively easy because all devices were behind the enterprise network perimeter and connected to company-owned network infrastructure.
Over time, the modern company has become more distributed. Companies have moved beyond the security challenges of satellite sites to those of cloud computing and a mostly or wholly remote workforce.
With this sudden decentralization of enterprise IT infrastructure comes new cybersecurity challenges. With devices no longer connected directly to the enterprise network, the traditional network perimeter has dissolved. Additionally, the rise of the cloud and telework means that business data and applications are hosted on devices that the organization no longer owns or has full control over.
This makes it much more difficult for the modern business to achieve visibility and control over its infrastructure. As a result, securing corporate devices, applications, and data becomes much harder.
Cloud and Telework Introduce Regulatory Challenges
In addition to creating challenges for corporate cybersecurity, the growing shift toward cloud computing and remote work also creates regulatory challenges. The combination of cloud computing and remote work means that a shrinking percentage of business traffic starts or terminates within the enterprise network.
This means that this traffic does not naturally pass through the traditional network perimeter, where most organizations’ security solutions are deployed. As a result, businesses struggle to maintain visibility into and enforce security policies on a growing percentage of their business traffic.
This and other factors contribute to significant regulatory compliance challenges for modern businesses, such as:
If traffic does not flow through an organization’s security solutions, it may lack the ability to enforce access controls for sensitive data and applications. This creates significant issues for regulatory compliance as most regulations mandate that an organization prevents unauthorized access to the data under their purview.
The growth of cloud computing and remote work mean that not all of an organization’s data is stored and processed on the enterprise network. If data crosses jurisdictional boundaries, new regulations may apply or an organization may be non-compliant with certain regulations. For example, the GDPR prohibits the transfer of EU citizen data to non-EU countries or businesses that do not have equivalent or “adequate” data protection regulations in place.
Without visibility into all network traffic, an organization lacks full visibility into where the sensitive data in its possession is stored, transferred, and processed. This makes it impossible to prove that this data has not been exposed in a data breach or processed in ways that violate the consent requirements of the GDPR and similar regulations.
These and other issues demonstrate that traditional approaches to cybersecurity and regulatory compliance do not work for the modern distributed enterprise.
SD-WAN Provides Necessary Network Visibility
Many of the cybersecurity and compliance challenges that distributed organizations face arise from the fact that their network has outgrown their security policies. While the organization may have infrastructure, applications, and users distributed around the world, their network monitoring infrastructure is centralized at a single or few locations.
This forces these organizations to make the decision between network performance and cybersecurity and regulatory compliance. Backhauling all network traffic through the enterprise network – via a virtual private network (VPN) or similar – provides the needed visibility at the cost of significant latency and degraded performance. In contrast, allowing all traffic to go directly to its destination ensures high performance but leaves the company blind to a high percentage of its business traffic.
SD-WAN provides a potential solution to the visibility challenges posed by cloud computing and a remote workforce. Instead of a single VPN endpoint on the enterprise network, an enterprise can deploy a network of cloud-based SD-WAN points of presence (PoPs).
Users can send their traffic to the nearest SD-WAN PoP, from which it will be securely and optimally routed on to the most convenient exit PoP and then on to its destination. Since all traffic passes through an SD-WAN PoP, an organization has the ability to achieve full network visibility and enforce some access controls without the performance impacts of backhauling traffic to the enterprise network.
Simplifying Compliance with SASE
A network of cloud-based SD-WAN PoPs is an important first step toward balancing network performance and cybersecurity and regulatory compliance, but it is not enough. SD-WAN alone is only a networking solution. Securing the traffic flowing over the SD-WAN network requires deploying a security stack alongside each SD-WAN PoP.
SASE provides a better alternative. SASE integrates a full security stack with SD-WAN functionality into a single, cloud-based appliance. With SASE, an organization has a scalable, distributed solution that offers secure remote access and the security functionality needed to address the modern challenges of regulatory compliance.