Opinion

Beef Up Your Perimeter Security With SD-WAN

The business perimeter of today’s financial organizations continues to expand and blur due to big data, mobility, cloud, internet of things (IoT) and other technology advancements. While these innovations and the associated perimeter expansion has enabled tremendous leaps forward in IT and business capabilities, as well as important improvements in customer experience, they have also opened the door to new challenges, especially around data security.

Much like it is critical to apply advanced technology to address business requirements and help drive business success, it is also vital to leverage advanced technology to overcome technology challenges. However, sometimes this is easier said than done, especially when there is an established technology in place that many IT professionals have come to depend on and trust.

One such technology for many financial organizations is virtual private networks, or VPNs, which has been the long relied upon go to, when it comes to network security. Unfortunately, VPNs were not architected with today’s digital business environment in mind, nor has their evolvement kept pace. However, a new technology has more recently entered the marketplace which many IT professionals are exploring and finding success with: software defined wide area network, or SD-WAN, for the network edge.

VPNs: A Sitting Duck for Cybersecurity Threats

Historically, financial organizations have relied on VPNs as they were able to offer tangible benefits, such as enabling secure and cost-effective network connectivity for remote employees and/or remote app deployment. More recently, however, as the workplace and workplace applications have evolved, VPNs now allow and even introduce the types of security vulnerabilities they were originally employed to prevent. VPNs have made their employers virtual sitting ducks for cybersecurity threats,

Historically, many financial services organizations have realized various benefits from the employment of VPNs, such as enabling secure and cost-effective network connection for remote employees and/or remote app deployment. Again, however, as a result of expanding business perimeters, a more mobile workplace, and the continued rise in virtual employees, VPNs have become sitting ducks for cyberthreats and hack attacks. This is due to the challenges being experienced by today’s financial organizations:

  • For an industry that’s more and more distributed, it’s critical to recognize the added IT management headaches and deployment complications that can arise each time a company needs to connect a new application or location. Different locations may need to navigate around different devices, plus multiple layers of security protocols. Edge compute locations may end up with inconsistencies in device configurations; when this happens, the organization’s data security becomes vulnerable.
  • VPNs not only require large IT management overhead, but they are also inflexible compared with more modern solutions. For optimum security and to avoid interruptions in business as usual, financial services organizations need a more flexible connectivity solution that can quickly shift gears when the network’s needs evolve, and can respond instantly to security threats like ransomware.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that while the IT benefits continue to decrease, the expense does not. VPNs have actually become more expensive, as the need to add more of them arises each time a new app gets integrated into a distributed work environment.

Think about the resources required to not only procure and deploy, but also support and continuously manage, everything from hardware and software to public IP addresses, as is required when VPN is used as the company’s connectivity solution. Financial firms also must add in the price of bringing on board IT staff to oversee the whole infrastructure, including remote sites. In a word, VPNs have become costly.

A Modern Approach for Ensuring Data and Operations Security

It’s become painfully evident that VPNs present an outdated technology that can no longer adequately secure data in today’s modern financial services organizations. In response, SD-WANs have emerged as a viable solution that not only overcomes VPN shortcomings, but offers additional benefits, including:

  1. Increased security. SD-WANs are gaining favor rapidly with IT professionals for a number of security reasons, the primary being the fact that the solution is designed to place computing resources right by the data sources (hence the term “network edge”). Through network segmentation, security is enforced for each application, which helps limit potential damage from a breach to just one app. SD-WAN also uses a virtual overlay that’s centralized, which reduces the chance of having more than one manual configuration, thereby decreasing security-related risks.
  2. Increased agility. Network services and cloud apps can be rolled out quickly and on-demand with SD-WAN, which allows financial firms to be much more lean and agile.
  3. Reduced complexity. While it can take weeks or months to operationalize a distributed enterprise with VPN, this can happen literally in minutes with SD-WAN. Easier network setup occurs thanks to a central controller that allows for automatic configuration and provisioning, as well as auto updates being sent to remote locations.
  4. Proven scalability. Designed specifically to scale, SD-WAN allows for the needed level of security and performance appropriate for large enterprises. Network performance isn’t compromised by changes, updates, and new deployments.
  5. Decentralized workforces mean that workers are generating and accessing more data at the network’s edge. SD-WAN offers a straightforward solution—without VPN’s complications—for secure connection and management. While VPNs make IT administrators have to choose between cost-effectiveness and security, SD-WAN solutions connect applications in a way that’s cost-effective without sacrificing security.
  6. SD-WAN relies on a new type of architecture that virtualizes the WAN, which means network intelligence can be managed via software, decreasing both complexity and cost. It also boosts the flexibility of the network. A financial services company can manage this individually for each branch, cutting down on the risk of network disruption.
  7. Decreased costs. Top of mind for many IT decision makers are, understandably, costs—so it’s particularly notable that WAN infrastructure costs can be reduced by nearly 80 percent when using an SD-WAN solution.

For financial organizations, digital transformation is not on the horizon—it’s arrived. Consequently, the pressure to evaluate and deploy new technologies to secure data and operations has never been greater. While change can be difficult, the risks and potential negative ramifications of doing nothing, and sticking with status quo, have never been greater.

SD-WAN offers a powerful multi-layered security solution seamlessly integrated with management simplicity, scalability, and cost savings. When you compare this with a VPN’s limitations in each of these areas, it becomes clear that it’s the perfect time for the industry to extend its security beyond traditional perimeters, and in doing so reap the numerous IT, business, and financial benefits.