How Managed Network Services Facilitate Remote Work and Business Continuity (Part 1 of a 2-Part Series)

During the pandemic, enterprises were forced to accept that remote work was now a necessity and not just a nice-to-have capability. To maintain business continuity, IT organizations took dramatic steps to ensure that workers could connect, communicate, and collaborate. At the time, it was the only way to keep delivering the productivity needed to sustain the enterprise.

As you know, remote work is still a key part of the enterprise strategy. This places a huge dependency on the network infrastructure. After all, the network is the bedrock that provides the connectivity that enables the interaction between users and the applications and systems they rely on to go about their daily, revenue-generating activities.

As a result, the ability to support remote work is consequential not only for the enterprise, but also for the managed network service (MNS) providers that ensure the smooth operation of the network infrastructure.

There are multiple dimensions in which MNS providers facilitate remote work and business continuity. Let’s start with the security angle.

The Security Implications

Classic defense strategies used to revolve around providing a perimeter around the user base and the application ecosystem, including the datacenter. This barrier made it possible to defend against external threats based on location-based policies. With the advent of the cloud, location-based security strategies evolved to support both physical and virtual landscapes.

In a short space of time, the distributed nature of the workforce made it necessary to provide security outside of the perimeter – in homes, shared workspaces, and even mobile situations. Location-based security approaches are severely challenged by this ever-evolving environment.

In parallel, the increased use of cloud-based applications, such as communication and collaboration technologies (MS Teams, Webex, etc.) opened up all sorts of new vulnerabilities. The classic perimeter-based defense was no longer sufficient and new approaches were needed to meet the security challenge.

One of these approaches is the secure access service edge (SASE) framework. SASE combines network and security functions to provide a multifaceted approach to dealing with the security issues, including those driven by remote work.

The SASE framework provides an umbrella that includes techniques such as zero trust network access (ZTNA) and micro segmentation to limit the exposure of enterprise systems to security breaches – and, when they do occur – minimize the damage.

The MNS Advantage

Rolling out a cybersecurity initiative such as SASE is an intimidating proposition for any enterprise. Whether it’s an in-house effort or a vendor supported activity, MNS providers are well positioned to help with the planning and the roll-out. In fact, from an operational perspective it is absolutely essential that MNS be part of the effort.

The reason for this is that, if not executed properly, SASE has the potential to stifle connectivity, access and productivity. It adds an additional layer of complexity on top of the infrastructure management stack.

ZTNA, for example restricts access to resources based on user identity. Similarly micro segmentation restricts the communication pathways to those relevant to an application’s operational components. When a user can’t access a service or an application starts underperforming, it can be very difficult to diagnose the cause.

MNS providers already have the ability to rapidly identify and rectify network issues. By integrating the configuration data around ZTNA and micro segmentation, and understanding the SASE architecture, they can provide a business level view of service delivery issues in a rapid and reliable manner.

Your MNS provider can answer questions such as, is it the network causing the issue? Or is it something related to user access or permissions? Or is it an application that is not communicating or operating like it is supposed to?

In part 2 of this series, we’ll look at how MNS can facilitate yet another trend driven by the move to remote work – Collaboration.

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