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SD-WAN Security: How a Managed Service Provider Solves Five Key Transformation Challenges

Many organizations are undergoing the switch to SD-WAN as a part of an overall Digital Transformation. This makes sense as the technology can utilize various transport types at the branches, direct applications based upon business intent, and provide a more agile network topology. (There are even more Managed SD-WAN benefits, from reliance on a partner to manage, to optimizing infrastructure.) Internet-based transports, such as cable, fiber, and LTE/4G, are increasingly being deployed due to the benefits of greater bandwidth, lower cost, and easier access to cloud-based applications and services.

However, as distributed (see SD-WAN in retail) enterprises rework network architectures and security postures to improve service delivery and cloud access at the branch, new challenges arise which could negatively affect application performance and put your brand at risk.

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Businesses are constantly looking to augment or revamp their applications and systems to achieve various goals such as improving the user experience, reducing costs, or compliance. Datacenter applications moving to the cloud, IoT devices, mobile apps and loyalty programs, unified communications, and other initiatives all require a network to carry that traffic with suitable security, capacity, and reliability to ensure a positive customer and employee experience.

SD-WAN is the right idea and Managed SD-WAN with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is the right solution.

Let's explore five key ways engaging with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) during this transformation will improve your delivery timeframe and overall business strategy, especially when Internet transports are being utilized at the branch.

Challenge #1: Complexity Can Lead to Insecurity
According to Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Report, nearly one in five breaches were due to errors made by the organization or an employee. Implementing an SD-WAN is very complex, despite what the various marketing material might state. When you need to combine elements such as traffic routing, firewall policies, application and flow optimization, then layering in multiple transports and the Internet—it quickly becomes a very complex and convoluted design problem. Correctly chaining and layering these elements into the branch architecture are crucial to protecting your brand and your customers. The right MSP can help you design, test, and validate the proper technology and platform functions for the distributed locations.

Challenge #2: Identifying and Training All the Personnel You Need to Combat the Cyber Threat is Difficult
A recent ESG Research survey of over 600 IT professionals across multiple industries in North America and Western Europe found that more than half of the respondents felt their organization currently had a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills. Various studies highlight that the cybersecurity jobs forecast has been unable to keep pace with the dramatic rise in cybercrime. Having a partnership with an MSP and their Security Operations Center (SOC) is beneficial to companies that have limited IT resources and internal security expertise. The solution is to leverage secure SD-WAN with your MSP and MSSP Personnel, experiences, integrated systems, and portals. Analogous to a home alarm system they can tell you if your home is safe and secure, and correlate events to other alarm systems at homes and businesses on the street.

Challenge #3: Soaring Configurations make Management Exceedingly Complex
Another challenge with securing your SD-WAN is the seemingly never ending configuration rule sets and changes to the network. Branch locations are growing in the number of IoT devices and sensors needing to talk to the hosts in the internet, maybe the POS at the location, or a server at corporate. You still need to protect your Card Data Environment (CDE) by enabling security cameras and using Guest Wi-Fi analytics, and with the different levels of security scrutiny, rule sets can quickly get unruly. Leveraging the Right MSP can help bring structure to change processes, introduce configuration templates, and help test and automate the whole process. The solution is to leverage MSP experiences, automation, systems and change processes.

Challenge #4: Security Across an Increasingly Vast Threat Surface
Once you work through the design for implementing SD-WAN at the branch and validate all the configurations needed for proper application flow and inspection, the next challenge is scaling the deployment to tens, hundreds, or thousands of locations. You can brute force just about anything in limited scope—in the lab or at a proof-of-concept location—but taking the implementation to a larger number of sites requires the right systems and processes. As your SD-WAN likely brings the Internet to each location, perhaps to allow for easier cloud access, the thread surface for your organization increases significantly. It only takes one unsecure point in this deployment for a network breach to occur. While the Right MSP can help you procure the broadband, deploy and maintain boxes, they can also help you securely scale by leveraging their back-end systems, automation tools, and experience.

Challenge #5: Meeting Compliance Standards Across Your Enterprise
The road to compliance isn't as straightforward for distributed organizations, be it PCI, HIPAA or any other of the many sets of standards organizations must meet. Elements of Internet access, 3rd party devices, and evolving applications at the branches introduces additional difficulty. Drawing a parallel to submitting your taxes every year,  your security compliance could be uncomplicated if you have a single job and use a simple 1040-EZ form. When your taxes get more complex with multiple properties, capital gains and mortgage deductions, you might want a CPA on your side. The right MSP can hold certain certifications, like PCI network provider, which would simplify your compliance submission and help you focus on your business, and provide an SD-WAN solution to do the legwork for you.