Avoiding the Risks of Unmanaged Networks

Enterprises can reduce their risks from unmanaged networks by gaining visibility to the complete network path that delivers their users' experiences.

Avoiding the Risks of Unmanaged Networks
(Source: Pixabay)

From the data center to the cloud or from an employee working anywhere connecting directly to the web, today's organizations and their employees' productivity are at the mercy of unmanaged networks, which is infrastructure that the company does not own and cannot manage.

A customer service representative connects to a SaaS-based call center application via their home Wi-Fi, connecting through an ISP. A large financial institution runs its services from hundreds of branch locations, connected over SD-WAN using 3rd party networks. A sales representative finds connectivity wherever available:  at a hotel, cafe, or customer site, using a variety of networks to access a CRM tool and ordering system with connections back into the data center. These real examples of the modern employee experience highlight the dependence of today's enterprises on networks they do not own nor manage, as well as exposure to significant risk and lack of control or insight.

Securing employee interactions is paramount, and Zero-Trust and SASE architectures offer effective ways to secure employee access to the modern array of SaaS apps and cloud resources. While most organizations have adopted SASE or plan to do so over the next two years, many are taking a hybrid approach to network security and leveraging both on-premises and cloud-based secure web gateways.

By adopting a hybrid approach to network security, IT can ensure safe and secure access to the resources employees need no matter where they are located. But the rapid adoption of Zero-Trust and SASE can limit visibility into user experience, putting security at odds with customer satisfaction and productivity. A recent survey of security professionals indicated that new security initiatives and lack of visibility can result in security being prioritized above all else, posing a critical threat to the success or even the continued viability of the business. To avoid this scenario, it is critical for companies to find solutions that provide comprehensive visibility to user experience as they roll out Zero-Trust and SASE.

Let’s explore this further with three examples across industries.

Unmanaged networks impact in healthcare

A healthcare provider in the northwest proactively monitors the end-to-end network delivery experience for their telehealth application. A critical application during the pandemic, telehealth leverages modern connectivity to allow an interaction between the healthcare provider and the patient without unnecessary exposure to health risks. As telehealth appointments ramped up, the provider observed that telehealth sessions in a specific region were suffering performance issues. Through end-to-end network delivery monitoring, they had the visibility they needed to determine that a specific ISP was the source of latency. Although the ISP network was not owned by the provider, through network path monitoring, the healthcare provider was armed with the right information to proactively notify the ISP and resolve the network performance issues so that patients could be better served.

Unmanaged networks and manufacturing

A manufacturer in the southeast found that employees couldn't access a critical cloud application for managing production supply and inventory. The IT team needed to determine quickly if it was the app itself, the users' systems, or some network in between. The network security team had recently upgraded their secure web gateway, and fingers started to point at these gateways as the culprit because of the recent update. The manufacturer was able to observe the network path, segment by segment, to determine that the actual problem was a DNS server that had been misconfigured. Without visibility into the complete network path, the finger-pointing could have delayed and slowed the manufacturer's production. Instead, this organization was able to avoid that by seeing the full context of the network to pinpoint and resolve the source of the issue.

Challenges in financial services

A large financial institution uses SD-WAN to secure the network connections to their branch locations and remote offices. Through an acquisition of a smaller financial institution, they inherited an SD-WAN solution that didn't align with their strategic SD-WAN vendor. In order to shift the branch locations of the new acquisition to their chosen SD-WAN provider and reduce costs, they needed to be able to ensure that there was no disruption to branch operations. Often, new deployments of SD-WAN are seen as the source of any network degradation despite indications from the SD-WAN vendor tools that everything is working well. By measuring the performance of the network path, they created a baseline for the current solution before the change. By comparing the performance after the new deployment, they were able to confirm that the switch in SD-WAN technologies had no impact on performance.

These scenarios illustrate that when sourcing the root cause of performance issues across the complex, modern network delivery path, "I don't know" is not an acceptable answer and can result in a patient not getting the care they need production slowdowns or poor service at branch locations.

Fortunately, organizations do not have to remain in the dark, even if they’ve adopted Zero-Trust and SASE and even for networks that they do not own or manage directly. Active, continuous end-to-end measurement of network health, performance, and availability is possible, reducing the risks organizations face when depending on networks outside their own data centers. With network-centric digital experience monitoring that illuminates the end-to-end network path and its performance for any application or service, organizations can even proactively measure impacts to unmanaged networks that make up the modern application experience.

As your organization transforms from a data center to the cloud or continuing hybrid work approaches, reduce your risk and safeguard your employee experience and productivity by gaining visibility to the complete network path that delivers their experiences.

David Hardman is part of the NetOps Product Team at Broadcom Software.

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About the Author(s)

David Hardman, Member of the NetOps Product Team, Broadcom Software

David Hardman is part of the NetOps Product Team at Broadcom Software. He has over 25 years of experience in technology, spanning the disciplines of software development, product management and product marketing focused in the area of IT Operations.

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