What is Branch Office Network Security?

5min. read

Many organizations have multiple offices spread out around the country or the globe. Those branch offices require access to corporate data and services as well as protection from emerging threats. Branch office network security represents the means to secure internet traffic between branch offices and other branch offices, data centers, headquarters or remote employees. Keeping data in transit secure and ensuring proper access control are critical to protecting an organization as a whole.

Challenges of Branch Network Security

Organizations face a handful of challenges when it comes to securing branch offices. First off, bandwidth requirements are crucial to maintain productivity and collaboration for employees wherever they are located. Keeping network speeds up and minimizing bandwidth interruptions – not to mention accounting for the growing need and complexity of cloud applications and countless devices connecting to the network – can quickly become costly.

The rapid adoption of cloud applications has increased the need for a constant, consistent internet connection. Popular software-as-a-service applications, such as Office 365, Dropbox, Salesforce, G Suite, AWS and Slack, allow for easier collaboration between employees working in different locations while maintaining access control. Traditional technologies like wide area networks and multiprotocol label switching – WAN and MPLS, respectively – can’t keep up with the evolving network landscape or the addition of new services and applications that require more bandwidth. The practice of sending internet traffic back to headquarters to be filtered and inspected can’t realistically keep up with user demands and the types of data being accessed and sent.

Having multiple sites that IT teams must keep secure is becoming difficult as organizations add more services and apps. Traditionally, firewalls have been placed on-premises at each location, requiring IT to be physically present for implementation, setup, maintenance and hardware troubleshooting. The more sites, the more hardware requirements, and the greater the number of granular rules and policies that must be created. Most organizations do not have the IT resources to deal with these growing needs at branch offices.

Lastly, with the rise of devices and applications on the network, so increases the risk of hackers and threats finding vulnerabilities. Hackers know that the network edge is generally the weakest point in an organization and will exploit that to gain access into internal networks.

How to Secure Branch Offices

Securing branch offices is not as simple as selecting a product and turning it on. Many organizations have turned to software-defined wide area networking, or SD-WAN, to connect branch offices or data centers to the corporate/headquarters network. SD-WAN takes a distinct approach, managing the WAN through cloud-based management to help companies reduce costs compared to MPLS, improve performance, and optimize SaaS and cloud applications for users. However, SD-WAN doesn’t solve the entire problem, only the connectivity issue. Lack of security features within SD-WAN requires organizations to use other tools and platforms, such as intrusion prevention, web filtering and SSL inspection, to protect their networks. 

A new approach to security has emerged, called secure access service edge (SASE, pronounced “sassy”). SASE is the convergence of wide area networking, or WAN, and network security services like CASB, FWaaS and Zero Trust, into a single, cloud-delivered service model. A SASE solution provides a consistent way to deliver and manage security at branch offices while providing a uniform way to securely connect users to applications.

By utilizing a cloud-based infrastructure, organizations can save time and money without having to install and maintain security appliances at every single branch. Policy management and access control are difficult with offices spread out around the globe. With a cloud-based infrastructure, branch offices forward traffic into the cloud service, where security policy is centrally enforced. This eliminates the need for IT to physically go to sites to manually update appliances or mitigate issues.

A SASE cloud-based strategy has many benefits for organizations who struggle with security, visibility and control over their branch offices.

  • Avoid backhauling cloud traffic to a central location for security inspection and ensure a seamless user experience.
  • Simplify branch networking by eliminating MPLS backhaul and reduce costs.
  • Ensure consistent security policies apply across HQ and branches.
  • Ensure speed and agility by enabling rapid branch deployments.
  • Ensure all traffic at branches is secured including traffic from network-attached IoT devices.
  • Full visibility and inspection of traffic across ports and protocols.

Click here to learn more about cloud security for branch office locations.

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