Network Strategies for a New Era of Work
These approaches can help organizations succeed in a post-pandemic world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has irrevocably altered the world, and businesses must adapt to these new conditions if they hope to succeed. Technology plays a major role in the post-pandemic landscape. As organizations increasingly rely on approaches such as remote work and Internet of Things deployments, they need networks that can support greater traffic and provide new capabilities.
Organizations and their networks evolve and adapt in tandem, with capabilities and limitations that are frequently interdependent. As organizations move their networks forward, they strengthen their resiliency against future crises and build a solid foundation for business success.
Three principles should guide organizations’ networking strategy as they navigate the next phases of pandemic response and recovery: zero-trust security, automation and resilience. These are interrelated, with each representing a holistic objective that organizations should aspire to. They serve as targets, providing constancy and direction when so much else in the business environment continues to change.
The stringency of zero trust — trusting no user or device until it has established identity and authorization for access — is appropriate for today’s security environment. Authenticating users to access the network and then allowing free rein is an insufficient approach when attackers can exploit so many potential vulnerabilities. Perimeter-based authentication no longer works when the perimeter is fluid, shifting continuously among clouds, branches and microbranches.
Zero trust addresses these realities through the following measures:
- Segmenting the network in ways that reinforce security controls and policies
- Strengthening identity and access management with MFA, role-based access control and other tactics
- Implementing least privilege controls throughout the network, blocking unnecessary traffic in and between segments
- Deploying application inspection technology to inform contextual controls
- Analyzing activity across network and cloud services with security information and event management tools
Given the current complexity of networking, it may be surprising that nearly all network changes are still made manually. Too often, these processes lead to configuration errors and inconsistencies. These, in turn, result in security vulnerabilities, degraded performance, improper application of policies and procedures, and outages. Automating the vast scope of work required to manage and optimize a network minimizes these outcomes while freeing staff to focus on business-enhancing initiatives.
Network assurance tools improve visibility across the network, gathering telemetry data and compiling it into a clear, concise format that helps staff identify and address problems. Coupled with detection and response tools, they also provide a powerful boost to security, augmenting the work of IT staff by using AI and machine learning to analyze logs, flag priority alerts and block attacks before they infiltrate the network any further.
The organizations that are most likely to thrive after the pandemic are those that approach the disruption and uncertainty they have faced as enduring characteristics of the modern business environment. It is telling that even among organizations that developed crisis response plans prior to 2020, many had not prepared specifically for a pandemic, and certainly had not anticipated such an extended disruption.
These outcomes, together with the negative consequences that have befallen so many organizations, attest to the absolute necessity of IT infrastructure that enables resilience — no matter what it may encounter. The seeds of the next crisis may already be taking root. Before it emerges, networking teams have a rare opportunity to conduct post-crisis reviews and to strategize about the best ways to leverage advanced networking and security technology for the future of work. Whatever it may bring, a commitment to build technological resilience is the most effective way to achieve business resilience.
To learn more about getting the most from your networking investments, read the white paper “Networks Evolve to Support a Changing World” from CDW.