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Much has been written about the cybersecurity skills gap. The field continues to suffer from a tremendous talent shortage. According to a 2021 Cybersecurity Workforce study by (ISC)2, the cybersecurity industry currently needs 3.12 million workers worldwide. It’s a problem that’s not going to be solved overnight, and the shortage of these IT skills is creating challenges for organizations. In fact,  73%  of organizations indicated that they had at least one intrusion or breach that could be at least partially attributed to a gap in cybersecurity skills.
Although enticing more people to consider a career in cybersecurity and offering more training obviously needs to happen, organizations also need to look into ways to simplify and streamline technology to lessen the load on their existing IT staff. You don’t want to overwork the IT staff to the point where they burn out and leave the organization entirely.
Secure SD-WAN that converges security and networking can help relieve some of the burden on IT because it offers: 1) centralized management for network and security policies, which accelerates large scale deployments with error-free configurations and simplifying operations, 2) consistent security and simplification of an organization’s architecture to reduce appliance sprawl and the need for support and maintenance, and 3) a unified view into traffic for security and network teams, providing faster resolution to potential issues that may arise.
As anyone in IT can tell you, complex networks are difficult to manage and maintain. And the more solutions you try to add into the mix, the more complicated the network becomes. To reduce network complexity, organizations should consider a security-driven networking strategy that converges networking and security across the connected environment, including edges and users that span from the core, out to the branch, and into the cloud. Networks that have security at their core instead of bolted on after the fact have the flexibility to evolve, expand, and adapt to new technologies like hyperscale, multi-cloud, and 5G.
A security-driven networking strategy transforms WAN edges with secure SD-WAN that is fully integrated into a next-generation firewall (NGFW) device. This integration helps make SD-WAN truly secure, instead of SD-WAN technology that needs security as an overlay.
A comprehensive, secure SD-WAN solution offers both built-in security and performance that can scale across any size enterprise along with centralized visibility and management. In addition to being far less complicated to incorporate into the network, this integrated platform approach to SD-WAN also can provide access to artificial intelligence (AI)-powered predictive analytics, intuitive orchestration, and self-healing features. It also reduces appliance sprawl and reduces costs associated with the support and maintenance of complicated architectures.
Dealing with multi-cloud networks has introduced new headaches for IT staff. But by integrating SD-WAN, next-generation firewall (NGFW), advanced routing, and ZTNA access proxy functions, you can build simpler and faster secure networks that take the need for cloud access into account. As cloud-based applications and tools like voice and video become increasingly critical to distributed businesses, organizations need to be able to operate without compromising application performance, user productivity, or security.
An ideal secure SD-WAN solution provides instant multi-cloud access with built-in security for another layer of secure access to applications like Office 365. Because the secure SD-WAN solution offers a low latency connection through public internet links, these applications can essentially become part of the trusted and reliable WAN infrastructure.
Organizations with remote workers who use bandwidth-intensive, encrypted voice and video conferencing applications benefit from SD-WAN built-in intelligence, which ensures that these applications are steered to the best performing WAN link for optimal performance. With fewer user complaints about application issues, IT staff can focus on other priorities.
Deploying SD-WAN devices in numerous remote sites and branch offices has historically been time-consuming and expensive. On the other hand, shipping fully configured devices is not secure. And once edge devices are deployed, IT staff has to manage both the WAN and security functions from separate consoles.
Secure SD-WAN solves both deployment and management problems. With zero-touch deployment, organizations can ship unconfigured SD-WAN appliances to each remote site. When the appliance is plugged in, it automatically connects to a service that authenticates the remote devices and connects them to a centralized management system. The deployed secure SD-WAN devices then offer centralized visibility with a single pane of glass management, and IT staff can update policies with just a few clicks. This unified view into traffic also helps provide faster resolution to any potential issues that may arise.
With guided work flows, automated overlay, and simplified business policies, the IT staff hours spent on infrastructure deployment and changes are reduced from months to minutes. The ability to enable consistent network and security policies is of particular help to teams with large-scale deployments, where time saved with error-free configurations and simplified operations really adds up.
Secure SD-WAN reporting and analytics provide information about WAN link availability, performance service level agreements (SLAs), and application traffic, so teams can troubleshoot and quickly resolve network issues.
To alleviate the burden on IT staff and reap all the benefits of secure SD-WAN, organizations should evaluate solutions carefully. Not all SD-WAN solutions are truly integrated with a single operating system for SD-WAN and security. An effective, secure SD-WAN solution reduces staff time by improving efficiency across WAN and cloud edges and reduces troubleshooting time by keeping end users happy with consistent application access and performance.
Nirav Shah is vice president of products at Fortinet.
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