5 Ways to Future-Proof Your Enterprise Network in the Digital Era

8 minute read

The state of your network may not always be top of mind, but it shouldn’t be an afterthought when it comes to your security strategy. When you embrace digitization with your enterprise network and invest in better technology, your organization will not only be more secure, it will also be able to operate and pivot in line with the ever-changing pace and demands of the digital era. Learn how you can overcome some of the challenges associated with digitizing your enterprise network when it comes to your campus network and Wide Area Network (WAN).

 

1. CHALLENGE: MAXIMIZING NETWORK SECURITY

Security will always be a top priority, but it can be hard to keep up. Your network access is your first line of defense, so it is essential to ensure your security policies are consistently applied across the enterprise. If you neglect to improve and enforce your security policies, you are at risk of mismanaging potential threats—and putting your organization at stake.

 

SOLUTION:

  • Integrate security in the network infrastructure.

    It’s important that you understand what your network requirements are early on to receive necessary recommendations and avoid any hiccups down the road. When it comes to selecting what technology and infrastructure are best for your organization, be sure its functions are built-in by design, whether it's within the hardware or there's tight integration in your broader security ecosystem.
  • Monitor your network access.

    Your network access is your first line of defense and you need be able to support how it functions by identifying who is trying to connect to the network, ensuring they authenticate securely, and then once they are connected to the network, monitoring the network traffic behavior of that endpoint or user.  
  • Engage endpoint threat intelligence. Threat intelligence increases visibility into your network traffic by looking for anything unusual that may be traversing the network. If a threat is detected, your enforcement policy should quarantine or disconnect the offending endpoint from the network and alert your operations team.

  • Enable network segmentation. Set parameters and restrictions for how devices can connect to other devices or access common network services or applications within your network. Then enforce those restrictions with an established policy. For example, if a guest user is connected to the network, you can enforce a policy that restricts their device from communicating with a corporate user or applications. Or, if there's an IOT device that can access or send information out to a specific network location, you can ensure those devices aren't able to access one another or other network services.
  • Enforce policies. As a device connects to the network, your organization needs to be able to identify that device, apply your policy once connected, and continuously monitor to make sure your policy is being enforced. Should any anomalous behavior occur, a separate policy should come into play.

 

2. CHALLENGE: COPING WITH CAMPUS NETWORK EVOLUTION

As everything around you becomes more digitized, so will the way you do business—and coping with new traffic and network demands can be challenging. More devices connected to the network means more traffic is being generated within the network. Initiatives such as bring your own device (BYOD) and Internet of Things (IOT) are examples of network and traffic expansion. While you go through this digital transformation, you are expected to shift the way you perform business and how you work internally with your own systems.

 

SOLUTION:

  • Architect a scalable campus network. Plan for scaling wired and wireless campus networks to meet the increase in both attached devices and consumed services. Leverage newer wireless technology and increase ethernet speeds to support these requirements. 
  • Improve network intelligence at the edge. As you become more digitized in the way you perform business, how you work with customers, and the way you function internally with your own systems, your network must be able to keep up with changing demands. With more devices connected to your network and more generated traffic in your network,, your network itself needs to be able to adjust in stride.
  • Boost wireless service. As you know, the more users access your wireless network, the slower your connection becomes. Yet there is an industry-wide expectation that the service will always be available and performing at a high level. Treat your wireless network as a business-critical service and continually enable new standards to amplify your network intelligence.
  • Embrace real-time applications growth. As you build or improve upon your campus, real-time applications that are running on it — whether it be voice, video, latency or sensitivity apps — will also increase. The network must be able to support them without any degradation of service.

 

3. CHALLENGE: RE-ARCHITECTING YOUR WIDE AREA NETWORK (WAN)

As you move more services to the cloud, you will need to look at the way the WAN is architected and how to use the WAN to access those applications and services. Software-as-a-service applications, like Microsoft Office 365 or Salesforce, require changes to the way your network traffic moves through the environment to satisfy the end-user experience. Traditionally, enterprises backhauled network traffic across the WAN to a central data center where applications had been hosted in order to erect a security enforcement point before users accessed the Internet. As more services are being moved to the cloud, there is a business requirement to re-architect the way traffic within the WAN flows, so you can maintain application performance. By re-architecting your WAN and utilizing SD-WAN technology, you will gain visibility into the end-user experience and how the application is performing, along with centralized policy and management functions.

 

SOLUTION:

  • Plan ahead as service provider contracts come up for renewal. Compare traditional service provider solutions to a more efficient and better performance optimized technology like SD-WAN. You may have some time left on your current service provider contract, but with evolving technologies, it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about how you want to approach the future. As you determine how to change the way your WAN is built, consider whether you want to continue using your traditional service provider or a forward-thinking technology like SD-WAN, which often creates more efficiency and better performance.
  • Streamline traffic flows. Typically, you might send application traffic to your data center. However, when you are running on the cloud and SaaS applications, there’s a need to drive traffic to the internet. SD-WAN enables that traffic flow to the internet in a secure manner.
  • Optimize the WAN. SD-WAN can provide you with more efficiency, while removing the need to backhaul all the traffic through the enterprise data center and eliminating the demand for more costly MPLS (private WAN) circuits.

 

4. CHALLENGE: CAPTURING NETWORK ANALYTICS & PERFORMANCE

With so many devices accessing services — within your own enterprise and out in cloud — you need to have good visibility and understand how the applications are performing from an end-user perspective.

 

SOLUTION:

  • Improve application visibility and performance. Not only do analytics give you visibility into how traffic is flowing across your network, they also baseline traffic so you can easily identify anomalous network behavior.
  • Stream real-time telemetry data. With traditional polling, it can be difficult to understand how your network is functioning in real-time. Newer network infrastructure equipment can stream the state of the network device out to a centralized management platform and provide you with real-time information on how that device is performing, as well as the overall health of the network, and quickly pinpoint if there are any issues.
  • Implement intent-based networking. As your organization grows and you connect more and more devices, strategically automate and manage your enterprise network with intent-based marketing. This will aid in connecting all the components successfully, while also optimizing wireless capabilities. With intent-based networking, you no longer need to dictate what you want your network to do. Instead, a policy is programmed to provide that functionality on its own through automation. Keep an eye out for this technology as it is still evolving rapidly and will do so for the next few years as more adoption occurs.

 

5. CHALLENGE: ENABLING AUTOMATION

Automation for the network has lagged behind other areas of infrastructure, despite to the business need to quickly deploy new applications and services, onboard users, and make network changes. Historically, enterprises have had to be stringent in the way they make changes on the network, due to rigorous change controls and the fact that the network is the underlying foundation to the infrastructure. Better automation is key to speeding up the whole process as businesses need to move faster.

 

SOLUTION:

  • Support platform open standards. Decide which automation platforms you want to use and simplify how they inter-operate together. You will gain more flexibility to select the best-of-breed solutions that suit your business needs.
  • Move from manual command line to APIs. As you move to automation, both people and technology must evolve. Empower your organization to shift skills and train your team in new technologies as things move from manual processes to automated technologies. While automation can improve operational efficiencies, you still need to have a strong and disciplined change process in place. 

 

When you take the next steps to future-proof your enterprise network, you are enabling your organization to keep up to speed with the ever-changing demands of the digital era. A more comprehensive security strategy will not only make your organization more secure, but will also prepare your network to seamlessly integrate into future IT.

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