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Legacy security architectures threaten to disrupt remote workforce

By Shannon Williams
Wed 27 Jan 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Network security is of prime concern amongst IT leaders, as most companies continue with work-from-home policies, according to a new study by Cato Networks. 

The SASE platform provider has released the findings of its fifth annual IT survey, The Future of Enterprise Networking and Security: Are You Ready for the Next Leap?, with 2376 IT leaders participating. The survey provides insight into how IT organisations responded to the pandemic and their plans for 2021.

Enterprises will continue working remotely

Protecting the remote workforce will be enterprises’ prime focus in 2021, according to the survey.

IT teams struggled in the early days of the pandemic, rushing to meet the urgent need for widespread remote access. Connecting users often came at the expense of other factors, such as security, performance, and management. As most respondents (81%) expect to continue working-from-home (WFH), 2021 will see enterprises address those other areas, evolving their remote access architectures to protect the remote workforce without compromising on the user experience.

According to Gartner, the abrupt surge in remote work has made secure remote access a priority, bringing back to the forefront BYOPC and VPNs for the short term, and emphasising on SASE and ZTNA for the long term.

Shlomo Kramer, CEO and co-founder of Cato Networks, says the true test for any enterprise network is how easily it accommodates the unexpected. 

"The right architecture helps IT avoid spending long hours and significant budget responding to a sudden shift in business requirements,” he says.

“A true SASE platform delivers global, cloud-scale networking and security to dynamically adapt to whatever comes next.”

Survey Highlights

  • Enterprises will continue working remotely: Only 7% of respondents indicated that everyone will move back to the office. More than half (80%) indicated their companies will continue with a remote workforce in whole or in part.
  • Securing the remote workforce is proving challenging: Enforcing corporate security policies on remote users was the second most common security challenge (58% of respondents). 57% of respondents indicated they lacked the time and resources to implement recognised security best practices. Boosting remote access performance remains the most popular use case for 2021 (47% of respondents).
  • SASE in focus for enterprises in post-pandemic 2021: 91% of respondents expect SASE to simplify management and security. Half of respondents (52%) indicated that SASE would be very or extremely important to their businesses post COVID-19. Of those who’ve already adopted SASE, 86% of respondents experienced increased security.

Securing the remote workforce is proving challenging

Securing remote users is proving exceptionally challenging for companies, Cato Networks says.

Remote users need the same advanced threat prevention and access controls as office users. Yet the legacy approach to delivering those capabilities — backhauling traffic to a location for security inspection — adds latency that undermines remote performance.

"No wonder that most respondents (58%) made enforcing corporate security policies on remote users the second most popular security challenge," says Kramer.

"And despite the massive investment in scaling VPN resources (72% of respondents) at the start of COVID-19, boosting remote access performance remains most popular use case confronting IT in 2021 (47% of respondents), up from the least popular use case in last year’s survey."

With high profile incidents, like the recent SolarWinds attack, most respondents (71%) pointed to the network’s inability to protect the business from new security threats as their biggest network concern.

For many, security is becoming too complicated, too difficult to implement, the survey found. Most respondents (57% of respondents) felt they lacked the time and resources to implement recognised security best practices. Even something as basic as quickly patching software and systems poses a challenge for many enterprises (32% of respondents).

SASE: A Strategic Approach to Secure Remote Access
The complexity of today’s security stack and the need to deliver secure access everywhere will propel interest in SASE architectures. As noted, more than half of the respondents indicated that SASE would be very or extremely important to their business post COVID-19.

Enterprises will continue working remotely

SASE solutions converge networking and security for all users — remote and office users. As such, more than 91% of respondents expect SASE to simplify management and security. Of those who’ve already adopted SASE, 86% of respondents experienced increased security, 70% indicated time savings in management and maintenance, 55% indicated overall cost saving and greater agility, 36% saw fewer complaints from remote users, and 36% realised all these benefits.

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