Planning for the Distributed Enterprise of the Future

In the past, most of an organization’s employee and IT resources were located on the enterprise LAN. As a result, enterprise security models were focused on defending the perimeter of the corporate network against external threats. However, the face of the modern enterprise is changing rapidly. Both users and IT resources are moving off of the corporate LAN, creating new employee and service network edges.

Distributed Employee Edges

The most visible sign of the evolution of the modern enterprise is the growing acceptance of remote work. Employees working remotely is nothing new, even for organizations without formal telework programs. Business travel, corporate smartphones, and other factors have led to corporate data and resources being accessed from outside the enterprise network, often without proper support or security.

The pandemic normalized remote work as businesses found that their employees could effectively work from basically anywhere. In fact, many businesses found that remote work increased productivity and decreased overhead. As a result, many businesses plan to support at least hybrid work indefinitely, and telework has become a common incentive for hiring and retaining employees.

Scattered Service Locations

While the rapid growth and distribution of employee edges can be attributed to the pandemic, service edges have been expanding for years. The emergence of cloud-based data storage and application hosting has transformed how many organizations do business.

The cloud provides numerous benefits, but one of its major selling points is the wide range of service options that organizations can take advantage of. Companies can move enterprise data to a cloud data center, outsource infrastructure management to a third-party provider for hosted applications, or take advantage of Software as a Service (SaaS) applications that are developed and hosted by their cloud service provider.

Nearly all organizations use at least some cloud services, even if this is simply cloud-based email and data storage (G-Suite, Microsoft 365, etc.). However, many companies have not completely given up their on-prem infrastructure, hosting some data and applications locally to meet business needs or regulatory compliance requirements.

This mix of on-prem and cloud-based infrastructure complicates the corporate WAN. Both on-site and remote workers need high-performance, reliable, and secure access to corporate data and applications, regardless of where the user and application are located.

How Three Enterprises Delivered Remote Access Everywhere | EBOOK

Legacy Infrastructure Doesn’t Meet Modern Needs

Many organizations’ security models were designed for the era where employees and corporate IT assets were centralized on the corporate LAN. By deploying security solutions at the perimeter of the corporate network, organizations attempt to detect inbound threats and outbound data exfiltration before they pose a threat to the organization.

The perimeter-focused security model has many shortcomings, but one of the most significant is that it is designed for an IT infrastructure that no longer exists. With the expansion of telework and cloud computing, a growing percentage of an organization’s IT assets are now located outside the protected perimeter of the corporate LAN.

A major challenge that companies face when adapting to the growing distribution of their IT assets is that many of the tools that they are trying to use to do so are designed for the same outdated model. For example, virtual private networks (VPNs) were designed to provide point-to-point secure connectivity, such as between a remote worker and the enterprise network. This design doesn’t work when employees need secure access to resources hosted in various places (on-prem, cloud, etc.)

Trying to support a distributed workforce with legacy solutions creates significant challenges for an organization. VPNs’ design and lack of built-in security and access control result in companies routing all traffic through the corporate network for inspection, resulting in increased latency and degraded performance. It also creates challenges for IT personnel, who need to deploy and maintain complex and inflexible VPN-based corporate WANs.

ZTNA Enables Usable, Scalable Security

As companies’ workforces and infrastructure become more distributed, attempting to make the corporate WAN work with legacy solutions is not a sustainable long-term plan. A switch away from perimeter-focused technologies like VPNs is essential to the performance, reliability, and security of the enterprise network.

Zero trust network access (ZTNA) offers a superior alternative to VPNs that is better suited to the needs of the distributed enterprise of the future. Some advantages of a cloud-based ZTNA deployment include:

  • Global Accessibility: ZTNA can be hosted in the cloud, making it globally accessible. Once access decisions are made, traffic can be routed directly to its destination without a detour through the corporate network.
  • Granular Access Controls: VPNs are designed to provide legitimate users with unrestricted access to corporate resources. ZTNA provides access to a specific resource on a case-by-case basis, enabling more granular access management and better enforcement of least privilege.
  • Centralized Management: A VPN-based WAN for an organization with multiple sites and cloud-based infrastructure requires many independent links between different sites. ZTNA does not require these independent tunnels and can be centrally monitored and managed, simplifying network and security configuration and management.
  • Private Backbone: Cato’s ZTNA uses a private backbone to route traffic between sites. This improves the performance and reliability of network traffic beyond what is possible with the public Internet.

Solutions like VPNs are designed for an IT architecture that no longer exists and never will again. As companies adopt cloud computing and remote work they need infrastructure and security solutions designed for a distributed IT architecture. By deploying ZTNA with Cato, companies can improve network performance and security while simplifying management.