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Enterprise Guide To An Effective And Secure SD-WAN

A secure SD-WAN is a networking solution that protects data traffic between two communicating ends. The data exchange happens under strong encryption inside a secure data tunnel. The software uses SDN technology to route traffic flow between people located in different parts of the globe.

The global enterprise industry is transforming at a rapid pace. Businesses are trying to blend with the new technologies to be ahead of the game. To stay connected, organisations are investing in cloud-based SaaS solutions, and hence they are often facing network security challenges.  

Secure SD-WAN solutions have gained significant traction lately since they provide seamless network infrastructure for data exchange. Many businesspersons have adopted it because they need fast, scalable, and flexible connectivity among various network environments. The secure topology provides an agile network, having enhanced network speeds and low operating costs.

Organisations, however, need to understand the downside of choosing the wrong SD-WAN solution, making it difficult to adapt to the fluctuating business demands. To help better understand how the secure SD-WAN tech works, reach out to our team of experts who will help guide you through it all.

What is a secure SD-WAN?

Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) is a network topology approach that distributes the network traffic. Networks utilising the SDN technology across WANs use SD-WANs to pinpoint the best possible route for traffic flow among different geographical stations.

In technical terms, SD-WAN is a technology that optimises operations with changing network needs over WANs via cloud-based automated system controls. With the adoption of SaaS/IaaS applications, the conventional network security circuits are failing to meet the escalating demands of today. With a secure SD-WAN, you can fix all these issues.  

What are the SD-WAN security basics?

Organisations can utilise the branch, cloud, or hybrid approach for the integration of the SD-WAN solution within the network infrastructure. If your company is working on critical data, they might not be in favour of putting all the information in the cloud. Hence, a hybrid approach is more viable for them.

VPNs or IPSec tunnels are used to securely exchange data inside the public internet, having multiple MPLS connections. SD-WANs add an extra layer of security to packets using these tunnels for communication. These tunnels ensure data packets are not interfered with while travelling from the sender to the receiver. Some of the basics of SD-WAN security are below:

  • Authenticate the three components of network communication: sender, receiver, and packets.
  • Communication should happen by using the encryption keys shared by the hosts at both ends. Packets can also be encrypted using public and private keys. 
  • Use the Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) protocol to ensure that the packets have not been altered along the way.
  • Authenticate the originality of packets via the Authentication Header (AH), similar to the IP header.

Why should organisations invest in the secure SD-WAN approach?

As networks are more distributed with large numbers of SaaS and cloud service providers, the need to secure remote working spaces has increased. Organisations are looking for an enhanced quality of service with better connectivity and predictable SLAs.  

If the above scenario seems familiar, then don’t consider yourself alone. Software-defined solutions like secure SD-WAN can help in this matter. We do not suggest that SD-WAN will nullify all IT and security-related issues, but it can add value to your technological ecosystem in the following mentioned ways:

Secure and manage complex distributed perimeter

Dispersed remote workplaces, legacy apps/routers, and growing dependency on SaaS providers make management increasingly difficult for IT security teams. These inconsistencies make systems complicated and complex for the application of policies to ensure all angles are safe from cyber threats.  

 The SD-WAN technology allows you to manage and secure complex distributed network perimeters. A secure and centralised management system improves agility and confidence. Also, SD-WANs are the key pillars for frameworks like Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). You can deploy tunnels in multiple locations within the public or private cloud – saving on hours of workload.

Granular policy-based routing

Organisations do not see the complexities involved in integrating security-related protocols. They want an effective and reliable performance, especially for business-critical apps. Hence, SD-WANs can help solve these challenges and manage SLAs on time. They use an overlay technique to steer traffic through the network with minimal latency. 

The basis of path selection is on prioritising critical applications that need timely and high-quality delivery of information. Furthermore, it is good practice to deploy granular policy-based routing controls to tune services for users and groups that need them the most. 

Cost reduction without compromising service

Most companies use a secure SD-WAN to cut costs, but the important factor they need to consider is deploying the correct hardware infrastructure for their systems. Most WAN appliances need a separate management interface, adding to the overall expenses. The lack of security features in the built-in systems also needs to incorporate the additional solution requirements.

Companies should integrate secure SD-WAN capabilities into their system firewalls to avoid expenses. This is the best solution to run your network ecosystem and control it through a centrally located management platform. The approach eradicates the need to deploy extra hardware – minimising the total costs while ensuring security within a distributed network.

What are the challenges faced due to the implementation of a Secure SD-WAN?

The SD-WAN solution comes with an array of benefits for all its users, drawing organisations towards adopting this technology. Like every other network solution, this too comes with its set of challenges that users need to address at the grassroots level. But, regardless of these drawbacks, the benefits will always outweigh them. 

Let’s explore some of the challenges faced by this security-driven approach for SD-WAN:

Ensuring security

Companies operating on less secure internet connections usually opt for a WAN network service. Deploying an SD-WAN adds an extra security layer to protect data even for employees trying to access it via remote locations. Since the SD-WAN solutions do not come with built-in security features, data traffic is routed through extensive security stacks before it is allowed access to the network.

Vendor choice

The functionality and network security features offered by different vendors are highly varying. Hence, choosing the right SD-WAN vendor can be very time-consuming and challenging. The diverse usefulness and intricacy of multiple vendors place IT teams in a complicated decision-making situation.

Reduction in cost

Companies are focused on adopting the secure SD-WAN solution to save costs, but these are difficult to measure compared to the original capital required for implementation. Many solution providers use SD-WAN as a service with an OPEX model to save up on expenses. 

Management

Traditional approaches used by businesses for managing WANs involved mostly in-house maintenance or outsourcing infrastructure deployment to vendors that did all the work. Along with so many benefits offered, SD-WAN poses serious management issues. These problems exist because SD-WANs are built on various infrastructure platforms, involving tools from numerous vendors.  

What are the elements of a secure SD-WAN implementation?

The need to manage the complex web of interconnected applications is why the SD-WAN market continues to grow. The approach is possible since it utilises the already installed WAN network more effectively and economically. Given below are some of the elements for deploying a secure SD-WAN connection in your network:

Supports hybrid work models

With the onset of the corona pandemic, organisations forced their workers to work from home, placing the IT sector under new challenges. Now, as the effects of the pandemic have started wearing off to a certain extent, companies are willing to evolve into a hybrid work model.  

Employees can work from anywhere, and implementing the WFA models can be complicated. Furthermore, employees accessing applications and tools must have the same user experience irrespective of the geographical locations. Hence, WFA support requires built-in integrated tools like ZTNA that allow better security and visibility for all users.

Flexibility and scalability

To meet the escalating digital demands of industries today, enterprises have adopted multi-cloud strategies and smart edge resources. SD-WAN should be able to dynamically scale with the fluctuating environment of the hybrid workplace models. To cope with the competitive markets, they should be capable of scaling thousands of sites across multiple platforms. 

Implementing AI operations can help simplify troubleshooting, spot errors, and predict failures well within time. The scalable networking operations ensure saving time and increase the overall productivity of SD-WANs.

Cloud-based strategy

SD-WAN solutions can address hybrid and multi-cloud strategies. Hence, organisations working on cloud platforms should invest in SD-WAN technology to resolve all cloud connectivity issues. 

The WAN-based solution will help establish secure and fast connectivity with enhanced performance in all cloud-based applications. Additionally, it will also help in maintaining inter-cloud protocols in real-time.

Edge Security

SD-WAN is a highly dynamic solution, yet many overlay security protocols might have trouble adapting to real-time system modifications. When this happens, security often trails behind network changes, resulting in security gaps – making systems vulnerable to attacks.

Organisations are searching for a solution that can provide consistent protection through either built-in or SASE-based security infrastructures. SD-WAN is hence preferred since it takes a security-driven networking approach. The installed security stacks must be constant for all outbound and internal network traffic with real-time encrypted data inspection.  

Branch networking support

A seamless system targeting the security and connectivity of an enterprise is not limited to the edge of the branch office. A robust and effective SD-WAN solution should be able to extend core functions into the branch network for reliable transactions across on-site LAN.

Integrating a unified distributed system incorporating WAN, LAN, and WLAN ensures a secure and manageable remote branch. These systems enhance network connectivity like LTE and 5G for the deployment of SD-WAN.

How can enterprises ensure SD-WAN security?

To build an effective SD-WAN strategy, IT leaders must reimagine the design and operations to incorporate the necessary controls. These modern tools should focus on SD-WAN configurations for building trust, visibility, and adaptation. If designers pool in these factors during the architecture phase, they are at an edge by being ahead of attackers looking for chances to enter your network.

If properly installed, a secure SD-WAN implementation can enhance your network connectivity to a great extent. Larger organisations need to integrate via preferred security suppliers, and smaller companies will look for something with features that can meet their branch requirements.

Like every other network, SD-WAN also requires robust security. Given below are some points you will have to address when you move traffic off a structured, private MPLS and onto the public broadband:

  • Integrate the SD-WAN solution into your enterprise’s already existing security architecture.
  • Do not make the mistake of viewing SD-WAN in the same context as the traditional physical network that automatically applies constraints on data flow.
  • Try to tie security with multiple vendors so that you have the flexibility to migrate to alternative security solutions quickly and cost-effectively.
  • Do not rely on traditional firewalls for safety. As systems are connected to the internet, they become victims of a broader attack surface. Therefore, enterprises must take added security precautions. 
  • While configuring the SD-WAN box, the adopters often bypass the firewall. In such a scenario, the organisation has no security at all. Hence, misplaced SD-WANs can create massive security vulnerabilities.

Conclusion

There isn’t one perfect solution that answers all your WAN challenges. However, the above piece gives a clear picture of how the majority of the organisation can benefit from SD-WAN. Integrating SD-WAN solutions have become inevitable now since WAN is better suited for modern use-cases. 

Enterprises are to support the new cloud-based business requirements while protecting their already installed traditional networks from future harm. If you have SD-WAN as part of your digital acceleration initiatives, everything can work smoothly for your organisation. These new modernised frameworks give businesses a reliable and secure MPLS solution.

With a secure SD-WAN, you can deploy a platform incorporating a vast mesh of interconnected devices over the world wide web. If you wish to transform your digital infrastructure, get in touch with our team, ready to assist you in every way possible.

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