COVID-19 has accelerated the world’s digital transformation and lately this has headed in an inevitable direction: the adoption of remote work. We can no longer assume that employees are working from the office and the “new normal” that the world is experiencing will likely bring about permanent changes to how and where we work. Tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have announced they plan to keep their employees working remotely until at least the end of 2020, and possibly beyond. While this approach is gaining popularity by the day, it’s far from a new concept.
Remote work has been a popular method for companies for the past two decades due to benefits like flexibility, productivity and cost-savings. In late 2019, Gartner predicted that by 2020, half of the US workforce would be working remotely. Here we are six months into 2020, and no one could have predicted that 62% of the U.S. workforce would go home to work remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Are Traditional VPNs Still Relevant?
Over the past 20 years, organizations adopted different tools in order to support and secure their remote workforces. The most popular solution that organizations relied on was an enterprise VPN technologies for remote network access. The value that VPNs once provided is diminishing by the day due to organizations’ transition to the cloud, however, and remote employees no longer need to connect to their corporate headquarters’ network.
Due to COVID-19, the majority of global organizations are requiring that their workforces connect to business resources on the cloud or to the corporate network remotely, creating an overload of traffic on the VPN’s they previously implemented. Originally, the idea of installing a remote access VPN was the right approach, however it’s now providing more cons than pros.
VPNs can expose organizations’ data and resources, making them more vulnerable to different attacks on the remote workforce. The traditional VPN provides remote workers with unlimited access to organizational resources, creating an attractive, ripe environment for hackers to get inside the company’s network. With legacy VPNs, organizations are unable to restrict access to specific network resources, making VPNs one of the weakest points of failure with respect to identity access and credential management as there is no segmentation, audit or control.
VPN has other limitations, such as a lack of network visibility and network segmentation, which limits unauthorized user access and overall network security. The tech was not designed to deal with dynamic networks that organizations are creating today. This is due to VPNs requiring constant hardware updates, the need to be properly managed and the absence of network or server flexibility. All of the above make it more complicated to scale and rapidly adjust for new users and network locations, and increasingly difficult to effectively manage hybrid and cloud-based computing architectures.
Scalability: The Key Factor of Today’s Workforce
The idea that one day an organization may need to increase the number of users to thousands or more is possibly one of the most important factors when deciding which solution to implement, especially with remote access needs. VPNs’ scalability hasn’t been their strongest characteristic; actually their lack of scaling capability to hundreds or thousands of users has been more of an Achilles heel.
VPNs were initially designed to only handle a small percentage of the global workforce. In today’s day and age, with thousands of organizations looking to scale their entire workforce remotely, the need for remote access solutions is more demanding than ever. With a massive increase in users, organizations are seeing congestion and latency in network access and a lack of quality of service.
In the past, when there were just a few remote workers in an organization, IT teams were required to designate a small amount of network access for them alone. When companies transform to a more remote workforce, organizations will need to adopt solutions that will have the capacity to support their networks and applications for everyone remotely. In the case of VPNs, network over-usage and older architecture results in slower user experience and creates headaches for IT and remote workers simultaneously.
Additionally, the implementation of new users and networks with a VPN can take up to weeks to fully onboard, creating a major hole in the company’s network. So which kind of solutions should organizations look for when trying to scale access to remote employees?
SASE: The Scalable Model For Remote Access
Instead of thinking about how we can make the VPN more secure, flexible and scalable, we should look for a different secure remote access solution. The answer lies in SASE: Secure Access Service Edge. Unlike VPNs, SASE is a solution for the increasing demand for scalable network access. So what is SASE and why is it the answer?
SASE, which was coined by Gartner in August 2019, is the cloud architecture model that combines the different functions of network and security solutions into a unified cloud security platform. This delivered “as a service” offers scalable secure access to the organization’s resources and networks. The new model will allow organizations to simply connect and secure their networks and remote workers with a cost-effective and instantly integrated approach.
Unlike the traditional networking solutions or modern VPNs, the SASE model recommends that organizations should instead connect their employees and networks on a more user-centric level to a cloud-based service. While in the past, the majority of networks for organizations were concentrated at the central data center for user access, this didn’t provide a suitable model for remote workers. Gartner suggests that this site-centric approach is outdated and not effective as organizations are turning to edge platforms, SaaS solutions and cloud services. While the concept of organizations providing a data center for user access won’t disappear overnight, it will become less relevant as the majority of services are moving to the cloud.
By adopting the SASE model, organizations will have a more flexible and scalable opportunity to connect remote employees to applications, cloud services, and APIs no matter their location.
Scaling for the Future
The SASE model for secure zero trust network access and additional vital security features provides organizations with scalability, flexibility, ROI and most important of all, secure access for their remote workforces.
When seeking the right remote access solution, look past the legacy VPN and change your approach with a more flexible and user-friendly SASE platform to secure your network, resources, and employees.