The Security & Disaster Recovery Benefits of SD-WAN

The importance of security and disaster recovery to the modern enterprise cannot be overstated. News like the LabCorp data breach that exposed data on 7.7 million consumers or a Raspberry Pi enabling a security breach at NASA provides empirical evidence of the importance of security on a regular basis. Similarly, the ransomware attack on Matanuska-Sustina Borough and PGA of America demonstrate the importance of disaster recovery.

Defense-in-depth is an important part of securing your network, and securing the WAN is vital to maintaining a strong security posture and enabling business continuity. Fortunately for enterprises, cloud-native SD-WAN, or SDWaaS (SD-WAN as a Service), can go a long way in hardening the WAN and improving disaster recovery efforts. Below, we’ll dive into the disaster recovery security challenges facing the modern WAN specific benefits of cloud-native SD-WAN when it comes to security and disaster recovery.

Security and the modern WAN

Modern networks are becoming more agile and evolving more rapidly than ever before. This creates a number of security challenges that enterprises must be able to account for, including:

  • The prevalence of cloud and mobile computing. In the early 2000s, it was easy to view the enterprise WAN is a collection of a number of discrete physical locations. Branch offices, headquarters, and corporate data centers spread across a geographic region, or even the globe. “Building a strong moat” around those endpoints was a practical way to approach things. However, with cloud services and mobile users being the norm, enterprises must be able to account for the fact-sensitive data is stored and accessed from outside of company walls.
  • BYOD creating a hard-to-manage attack vector. Bring Your Own Device or BYOD has a number of upsides for businesses. Users leverage the smart device of their choice, and the organization gets an employee that can contribute on the go. This also adds a unique wrinkle to WAN security. How do you protect a device you don’t source and control yourself?
  • Ransomware and other malware attacks are becoming more sophisticated. As we saw with PGA and Matanuska-Sustina Borough, malicious attackers are upping their game. WAN security has always been a bit of a game of cat and mouse, but today technologies like Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) and Intrusion Protection Systems (IPSs) are becoming table stakes.

With the traditional approach to WAN, say legacy tech like MPLS for example, multiple proprietary appliances would be needed to secure the network and attempt to address these challenges. At best, multiple appliances will need to be discretely configured, maintained, and patched, driving up CAPEX and opex. At worst, the complexity will lead to oversight or lapse that exposes enterprises to a security breach.

How Cloud-native SD-WAN improves network security

So, how does SDWaaS address these WAN security challenges? By taking a converged approach to WAN security. Cloud-native SD-WAN was built from the ground up with the needs of the modern enterprise in mind, and this includes security. Using a software-based approach to WAN infrastructure, cloud-native SD-WAN is able to “bake in” many security features that would otherwise require separate appliances. Some of the key benefits of SDWaaS include:

  • NGFW– The built-in NGFW functionality of cloud-native SD-WAN brings a wealth of security benefits to the enterprise. With built-in NGFW, complete visibility over WAN and Internet traffic is possible. This means that blind spots and oversights can be eliminated. As it is cloud-based, this also means it can scale much more efficiently than an appliance-based approach. Additionally, NGFW makes granular policy enforcement possible across the WAN without the need to manage multiple discrete security appliances.
  • Secure Web Gateway– In a world where so much gets done on the public Internet thanks to cloud services, ensuring secure web access is a must, and this is where Secure Web Gateways come in. SWGs help mitigate complex Internet-borne threats like phishing and malware. Enterprises can implement a single set of web access policies for both mobile and office users and benefit from an up-to-date database of URLs with data on malware and other malicious content. Normally, SWG and NGFW would need to be managed separately, but with cloud-native SD-WAN, the two solutions are converged, simplifying management and improving effectiveness.
  • Advanced Threat Prevention– Intelligence is vital to staying ahead of attackers. Advanced Threat Prevention is a suite of network security features that intelligently secure the WAN. Features include TLS inspection, multilayered anti-malware engines, and IPS with internal & external reputation feeds and contextually aware rules and signatures.
  • Secure mobile access– SDWaaS mobile clients make it simple for mobile users, including BYOD users, to connect to the WAN. Additionally, a zero-trust Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) helps enterprises implement granular access control down to the application-level. This is a significant improvement over legacy VPN approaches that took a subnet-level approach to network segmentation.

Disaster recovery challenges facing the modern enterprise

Disaster recovery can be the difference between your business staying alive when something goes wrong or losing it all. Many enterprises leverage data replication and adopt multi-level data tiered storage approach to enable redundancy in their backups. This is useful because the more resilience an enterprise has in their backups, the better.

The “gotcha” here for the modern enterprise is that all the backups create a huge amount of data to be transferred over the network. This leads to increased bandwidth costs and major bottlenecks that can severely impact WAN performance.

Cloud-native SD-WAN enables more efficient disaster recovery

Cloud-native SD-WAN is able to improve disaster recovery efforts because it inherently enables more affordable bandwidth and WAN performance optimization. Legacy MPLS bandwidth is costly, but SD-WAN makes access to economical public Internet bandwidth. Further, SDWaaS has a number of features that help address the performance bottlenecks. Forward Error Correction, Dynamic Path Selection, Policy-based Routing (PbR), and QoS help ensure that enterprises are able to get the most out of their WAN, even while transporting a wealth of data to enable the backups required for disaster recovery.

SDWaaS improves security posture & network performance

We don’t want to trivialize the topic of network security. There is certainly no silver bullet when it comes to ensuring network security. Diligence, defense in-depth, and staying abreast of the latest trends and threats are important. SDWaaS is a powerful tool to leverage when securing a WAN and can go a long way in improving your security posture and mitigating risk.

As we have seen, cloud-native SD-WAN makes enterprise-grade security possible while eliminating much of the complexity of legacy approaches. As a result, enterprises are able to improve their overall security posture. Additionally, the benefits of affordable bandwidth and WAN optimization made possible by cloud-native SD-WAN enable enterprises to implement a sound disaster recovery strategy without negatively impacting network performance.