The transition to a mobile workforce and the rapid adoption of cloud-based applications have presented unique challenges for network security administrators. Companies with a growing set of isolated technologies are finding it difficult to adapt to the new paradigm, with the security of critical business assets a chief concern.
Zero Trust security providers, such as Perimeter 81, offer to solve these headaches with a comprehensive and future-proof approach to network security. In this article, we look at what a converged network security solution is and why it’s advantageous to businesses with remote workers.
What is convergence in networking?
Convergence, the consolidation of multiple systems into one, often has positive effects on computing. Networking has seen a push for convergence over the past decade because it can simplify deployment.
Convergence is popular in networking because it’s easier to have only one service to manage instead of many. For instance, servers, switches, routers, and access points have converged, so companies have fewer hardware resources to maintain. Additionally, applications that can perform more than one duty simplify deployment, as network managers need to be familiar with fewer systems.
Security has been left behind
Converged networking has seen organizations using new network setups and compute environments. The convergence of network technologies has enabled companies to leverage the power of cloud architecture while modernizing the work environment so that employees can use applications remotely.
Businesses have often been focused on delivering business-critical applications faster and more efficiently than ever. However, this rapid deployment of network technologies for better performance has frequently left behind one of the most crucial aspects of networked applications—security.
Companies that rolled out new network technology without considering how it would be secured find it impossible to apply legacy security solutions to the new paradigm. Older solutions like firewalls are designed to protect single networks, and not deal with a remote workforce using multiple distributed systems.
If you don’t put security first when implementing new network technologies, you cannot secure the entire system with one central piece solution. Instead, you’re left with several isolated security applications, fragmented visibility, and decentralized security management.
Converged network security is the best solution
Instead of falling into this trap, security and networking must be converged. When security is built into a networking solution as a basic tenet, networks, and applications can grow, adapt, and evolve without risking business-critical data.
Implementing a converged network security solution can be difficult for companies with siloed IT and security teams operating independently, but it’s a challenge that must be overcome. Several companies now offer complete converged network security solutions.
A converged networking strategy means teams can design networks with security in mind. New infrastructures, devices, and applications can be easily chosen because they meet the predefined central security policy.
Access control can be much tighter with a converged network security solution. The system can detect what users are attempting to do, and illegal actions can be cut off immediately. Access control can be much better segregated, too, with users and devices only having access to the applications needed to perform their duties.
Data protection can be consistent with a converged network security solution. With every critical connection secured and monitored by a central system, there is a lower potential for data leaks. With fewer systems involved, there are fewer places a malicious actor can attempt to exploit.
The modern company network is fluid, with new platforms and devices constantly added. New remote workers can be added all the time. It’s tough to keep this secure using outdated perimeter-based security practices, but with a converged network security solution, you’re free to expand without opening up the potential for significant security holes.
ZTNA and SASE
Converged network security solutions for securing remote work typically work on a Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) model. This is a never-trust, always-verify model that throws out the old idea that a user or device should be implicitly trusted if they’re authenticated on a particular network.
Authorization and authentication checks are constantly made. These checks use the context of the user’s request to make intelligent decisions about what to allow and what to deny.
As every user and device is put through the same amount of scrutiny, the same process will be used to monitor a local user connected to the company intranet and a remote employee working from home. Therefore, remote work immediately becomes easier to secure.
Furthermore, by implementing a Zero Trust solution, applications can be deployed on the cloud, yet you can still use the same central authorization and authentication system. By ensuring security is always present when using a converged network security solution, you can gain a wealth of flexibility in deploying your infrastructure without compromising security.
Convergence often means using fewer vendors. Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) vendors, for example, offer several networking services, all under the same umbrella. A SASE provider includes data loss prevention (DLP), cloud access security broker (CASB), firewall as a service (FWaaS), secure web gateways, and a whole host of other services all in one.
The convergence of networking and security has several enormous advantages for the distributed networks we all use for business today.
With security checks being performed wherever the user is, the challenges of remote work begin to dissipate. When every business-critical system is secured by a single, powerful, versatile security system, it can be deployed on the cloud without issue.
We’ve previously discussed the ZTNA model and why ZTNA beats virtual private networks (VPNs). It’s also important to understand SASE and Secure Service Edge (SSE), two approaches to converged network security.
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Richard brings over 20 years of website development, SEO, and marketing to the table. A graduate in Computer Science, Richard has lectured in Java programming and has built software for companies including Samsung and ASDA. Now, he writes for TechRadar, Tom's Guide, PC Gamer, and Creative Bloq.