Hybrid work without the headaches: 7 technologies you need now

Posted on December 21, 2021

The future of work is hybrid, but this means more than just installing a couple of communications applications. IT departments must also address remote connectivity and security for employees accessing corporate applications and information from anywhere on any device.

If you’re looking to make remote or hybrid work a permanent business strategy, you must first look at consolidating and simplifying the long list of technologies needed to make remote work, well — really work. In fact, the real secret to success is to procure the right tools without increasing IT complexity. That means satisfying all stakeholders without overcomplicating management. Users must get seamless application experiences and executives expect today’s distributed business models to enable digital interactions without jeopardizing security. But IT operations are where the rubber meets the road.

Here are seven tools that can help you address today’s wide swath of work-from-home needs in one holistic strategy to make working from anywhere easier on IT:

1. Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) to connect the distributed workforce

UCaaS exploded in popularity as a result of the pandemic and is now among today’s most widely used communication infrastructures. Solutions like Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Slack combine communication and collaboration capabilities like calling, virtual presence, chat, and video conferencing into a single, cloud-based platform available anytime, anywhere to make remote work simpler, smoother, and more efficient. Metrigy predicts that 70% of organizations will be using UCaaS by 2023, which demonstrates just how critical these applications are for the digital-first business.

2. Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology for resiliency and control

IT teams must reevaluate the WAN as the platform for digital business, as their organization increasingly relies on the cloud for communications and information services. Mobile and hybrid workforces require IT managers to add new WAN connections and sites quickly. But there is no less pressure to reduce downtime while increasing visibility into the network—no matter where the user works or how they are connected (e.g. home internet via cable modem, wireless LTE/5G, etc.)

SD-WAN addresses this by using software-defined network principles to consolidate the corporate network’s control functions. This helps IT teams to manage all points on a corporate WAN from a cloud-based dashboard that can be programmed in innovative new ways. It can:

  • virtualize components of the traditional network (i.e., secure routing, application optimization)
  • optimize bandwidth using multiple connectivity options, and
  • continually monitor bandwidth utilization, packet loss, and latency to ensure the best application performance possible.

These are big advantages for IT teams charged with supporting the always-on business, which explains why SD-WAN and UCaaS often go hand-in-glove. According to Metrigy, over 60% of companies who are satisfied with their UCaaS deployments use SD-WAN.

3. Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) to put security at the edge — the user device

Today’s security threat prevention controls are insufficient on their own, especially as more people work remotely using a variety of devices, including personal computers unmanaged by the corporate IT team. EDR is a relatively new concept in the cybersecurity world that has grown in popularity because it can help solve key challenges of securing network endpoints and then quickly detecting, responding to, and preventing potential threats. EDR offers far more sophisticated (and much-needed) detection and response capabilities for endpoint devices by leveraging a deeply integrated security agent that acts as a gatekeeper between the operating system and any malicious apps or activities.

This “agent” can be either automated or human, conducting either an automated or expert analyst assessment. EDR technologies alone are not enough. A human cybersecurity analyst is required to effectively investigate threats and take action to mitigate them. Even with advancements in AI and machine learning, the security industry is not at the point where the most critical step — the threat response— can be 100% automated. For this reason, Managed EDR solutions are an appealing option for IT teams and companies needing the added support of security operations.

4. Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) to protect your multi-cloud environment

Security is crucial as organizations deploy and use more cloud applications and cloud service providers. Cloud services – whether they are custom business apps hosted in Amazon Web Services or cloud-based productivity apps like Microsoft Office 365 – increase agility as on-demand services, but they also pose significant risks by increasing the attack surface hackers can use to access corporate IT systems. To make matters worse, many companies don’t always know how many cloud applications their employees are using. For example, users can easily install apps without IT’s knowledge (otherwise known as “shadow IT”). Both sanctioned and unsanctioned cloud applications can create significant security risks.

CASB (pronounced “Kaz-BEE”) solutions are needed to address this. They are designed to both block users from accessing and installing unauthorized software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, but also help companies deploy one service to secure an ever-increasing list of cloud apps and services. CASB mitigates cybersecurity risks and keeps IT in control of the organization’s adoption of cloud-based infrastructure. That explains why CASB solutions are exploding in use, with the global market slated for a CAGR of 22% between 2021 and 2026.

5. Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) to reframe security around user identities

The rise of cloud and work-from-home has made ZTNA a must-have in enterprise cybersecurity. Traditionally, remote access to corporate networks has been achieved through Virtual Private Networks (VPNS) in which the VPN allows or denies access to a user based on the log-in credentials entered (username and password). The problem with this is that a VPN works on the premise of “default allow,” meaning it admits users with verified credentials to the network by default. Once someone is in, they may have very broad access across the network to all sorts of data, apps, and other digital resources.

This obviously doesn’t cut it when attackers can buy network credentials on the dark web and easily impersonate authorized corporate users. This has become a major security issue as organizations grant more remote access and move more applications in the cloud.

In contrast, ZTNA works under “default deny” policy, meaning it trusts no one at the outset. The technology enforces network access based on the user, taking a “never trust, always verify” approach. By doing so, it limits access rights based on user identity and increases security by minimizing lateral movement across networks — the signature move of an attacker.

6. Secure Web Gateway (SWG) to make the internet a more secure place to play in

As defined by Gartner, a Secure Web Gateway is a “solution that filters unwanted software and/or malware from user-initiated internet traffic and enforces corporate and regulatory policy compliance.” Simply put, it better protects organizations when users are surfing the world wide web. It can block users from accessing specific applications, filter out traffic from specific URLs, and detect malicious attacks. With SWG, companies are better protected from web-based threats and can more easily apply and enforce corporate IT policies.

7. Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) to make security scalable and easier to control

As a software-based service, next-generation cloud firewalls put the same hardware-based capabilities in the cloud, making them more agile and scalable. Particularly advantageous is that FWaaS provides perimeter protection without requiring IT to deploy dedicated firewall hardware to each business location. The solution provides hyperscale and cloud-managed, firewall protections that include web filtering, advanced threat protection (ATP), intrusion prevention system (IPS), and Domain Name System (DNS) security – helping to secure data from security threats. Gartner predicts that FWaaS deployments will quadruple by 2024.

Bringing it All Together

You now know the seven technologies needed to make remote work work, but how can you simplify and consolidate them for sustainable success? The key is Secure Access Service Edge, or SASE (pronounced “sassy”). In short, SASE is a framework and solution that combines network capabilities with security functions, putting them all in one integrated platform. SASE solutions include five of the above technologies. So all you need to do is simply add UCaaS and EDR and you’ve got yourself one seamless solution that eliminates work-from-home headaches.

Learn more about the benefits of Masergy SASE and explore Masergy’s Work From Anywhere offerings that unite collaboration applications, remote connectivity and security into a turnkey solution.

Ajay Pandya

Ajay Pandya is Director of Product Management and leads the team for Network Solutions team at Masergy. He has over 20 years of telecom experience in product development, engineering, consulting, and sales and has helped global service providers, utilities, transportation companies, public sector entities, and enterprises for their networking and IT needs. He has an MS in Computer Engineering from the University of Manitoba, and an MBA from the University of Ottawa. He is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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