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How Businesses Will Need to Transform to Overcome COVID-Related Challenges - Sangfor Virtual Innovation Summit 2020

We’re living in a time of unprecedented change, and the way we worked pre-pandemic may not actually be appropriate now. At the Sangfor Virtual Innovation Summit 2020, which was held yesterday, the primary focus was on discussing some of the most cutting-edge security, cloud and infrastructure optimisation solutions that are able to help businesses continue to innovate and make IT simpler, more secure and valuable, even in these challenging times.

“In response to the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, executives have been rethinking budgets for the rest of 2020. Budgets that were approved last year are now obsolete”, said Jason Yuan, Sangfor’s VP of International Product & Marketing. Jason believes that now, more than ever, businesses will need to transform with modern infrastructure and operations, and look towards implementing a few “future models” in IT.

He added that due to working from home, which is now deemed as the new normal, there is greater demand in cloud solutions to enable remote operations. According to Jason, we can expect 30% of all employees working remotely by 2024, accounting for about 600 million workers.

      

Such changes in the work landscape add new requirements for IT. “The first one is the connectivity. We need to connect the remote workers to data centres or the cloud securely. In addition, we need to connect team members together for the progress of collaboration”, said Jason.

The second one is security, which, according to Jason, is now a major problem since companies only have to worry about security in the headquarters and other branch offices in the past. Now, for every single new employee working from home, there are also additional security threats that need to be paid attention to.

The other one is productivity, as employees are much harder to manage when they are working remotely. With that, Jason recommended some technologies to aid companies in this setup, such as deploying endpoint protection to all remote workers, setting up multi-factor authentication, connecting remote workers to SASE (more on that later) before connecting to corporate applications and adapting virtual desktop infrastructure.

Security as Foundation for Change
As the event went on, cybersecurity took centre stage as industry experts highlighted the increasing need for companies to provide connectivity to every single employee working from home while ensuring that they remain protected. To make that happen, solutions that businesses had before the pandemic should be revised to meet all these changes.

David Holmes, Forrester Senior Analyst Serving Security & Risk Professionals, talked about a peculiar discovery by the analyst firm when they asked IT security decision-makers “What are your biggest security challenges”? “You would think it would be the evolving nature of IT threats, whether internal or external. But it is not. Most of them responded that it’s the complexity of the IT environment. In some respect, this problem is self-inflicted”, David explained.

With that, David talked about mass exodus as an example, where companies started to shift their operations and workloads remotely. “A large multinational company said that prior to the pandemic, they had 5% remote workers, but as of March, they have 95% remote workers. This is a huge increase, causing massive problems specifically with the IT infrastructure that they might have, from a security standpoint”, added David.

As a security analyst, David has had to address a few pressing concerns in cybersecurity. For instance, according to David, the most common question he encountered is about VPN. He said that even prior to the pandemic, applications have already migrated to parameters outside the corporate network and right now, employees are working in the same way, thus requiring a solution that integrates the two aside from VPNs.

“There should be a better way to connect everything in the future. That way is something we called Zero Trust Edge. You might see this in the market as Secure Access Service Edge, or SASE, but the basic concept is this: take the security stack and move it not necessarily to the cloud but into the edge network that is cloud-hosted”, explained David.

With zero trust edge, it will authenticate users, include inspection zones, replace user VPNs, filter use traffic and connect applications. “When remote workers need to connect, they can connect to the zero trust edge network, be protected by the firewall and other security measures and then access whether through Office 365 or their corporate applications back on-prem”, added David.

In this approach, there is less latency, and there is no congestion point. David said this is the model of security in the future.

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