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Setting the right foundations for network management

Connecting people, places, and devices has never been more important than it is today. Network connectivity and performance acts as the foundation to support the digital aspirations of businesses, allowing them to evolve and adapt efficiently, and manage their costs effectively.

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While IDC predicts that by next year 80 percent of organisations will have to transform their networks significantly to satisfy expectations, it can be difficult to know what changes can deliver the most value. The latest UK Digital Strategy establishes four key pillars for maintaining strong digital foundations. These are centred around having a robust digital infrastructure, unlocking the power of data, a pro-innovation regulatory framework, and secure digital environment. Although this looks at the state of digital in a broader sense, we can apply these pillars on an individual basis – using this framework as a tool to help organisations with their network management and transition to cloud.

A good way to think of the framework is to look at each pillar as a leg of a table. If one of the legs isn’t equal to the other, then the whole table will lose balance. Similarly, if you enhance your network infrastructure, you’ll also need to modify the processes and people to adapt to the new technology and harness data driven insights. It’s easy for organisations to throw new technology at their problems, but it’s only ever going to be as effective as the processes utilising it, the people handling it and the quality of data that can be extracted and analysed.

Building robust digital infrastructure

The right IT infrastructure can be transformative in increasing agility and efficiency but without robust and scalable solutions, organisations can find it difficult to keep pace with the changes they’re experiencing. Investing in flexible networks is a must, any kind of digital transformation relies on network flexibility, performance and availability. 

With approaches like secure access service edge (SASE) that deliver unified networking and security capabilities, organisations can implement hybrid and multicloud strategies that give them the ability to select the application, technology or provider that best fits their requirements, all through a single, cloud native managed service. This eliminates the costs and time associated with unnecessary network complexity and the management of multiple vendors. It also gives organisations greater flexibility to scale up and down with their requirements. A SASE approach also provides greater control and visibility of the network and a way to consolidate and strengthen security across the IT estate. Consistent policy can be applied to data traffic from all sources and destinations, from fixed sites to virtual hosting and to the data centre.

Creating a secure digital environment

Having the right people is a top priority and so is making the most of the skills they have. The management of physical assets can be costly and admin intensive for IT teams. It often requires a significant amount of time and expertise to maintain legacy infrastructure and security devices – not to mention the vulnerabilities that come with them. This is usually at the expense of the company and a significant time cost to employees who need their help. Minimising network complexity means reducing the workload for internal IT teams, so they can reinvest their time elsewhere. SASE provides IT teams with a more holistic approach to cybersecurity so they can monitor what’s going on, enforce security utilities, and manage things like custom access policies – making it easier for them to connect and secure all their users and resources in their digital environment.

Simplifying processes 

If organisations don’t implement strong processes, then it becomes difficult for people to follow them and get the most value from the technology. One of the key benefits of SASE is that its architecture supports the integration of disparate technologies into a single cloud-native environment. 

With the shift to remote working and distributed workforces, organisations need to access data and applications in new and often more complex ways. For IT teams, this calls for greater visibility of the users, accessing the network and the applications they are using. By combining software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) capabilities with several network security functions such as Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) and Secure Web Gateways (SWG), a SASE approach enables employees to securely connect to internal resources from anywhere and gives organisations better control over the traffic and data that enters and leaves their network. This provides IT teams with a simpler operational model that frees up the time spent on admin.

Unlocking the power of data 

Digital business transformation demands greater agility and scalability alongside reduced complexity and improved security. IT infrastructures bolstered with SASE enable organisations to transition away from their legacy data systems with the confidence and security they need. Not only does this simplify ongoing maintenance but the convergence of the network and security helps to streamline complicated processes. This gives IT teams the power to easily connect to resources, wherever they are located. Making it much more efficient to access applications and data and protect distributed workforces and data residing in the cloud.

SASE is as much about an approach to IT and transformation as it is the technologies that underpin it. The holistic nature of the framework is arguably its key strength. It is the foundation upon which organisations can harness the full power and potential of digital, data and technology. Ultimately, this delivers great efficiencies and supports organisational objectives and agility.

First published in Networking Plus 28th April 2023

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