The pandemic ushered in changes to the workplace that are looking more permanent than initially thought. Remote work, for instance, made organizations more agile during a time when it wasn’t safe to return to the office, and some have kept that going because it allows them to pull from a larger talent pool and have a dispersed workforce.
According to a report from digital.com, 37% of businesses permanently closed all their office space since the pandemic began, and 69% permanently closed at least some. The shift in how we work has led to a rise in new cybersecurity practices like secure access service edge (SASE), a revolution in securing data, resources, and users on a network.
SASE came along in 2019 and was instantly influential as the threat landscape grew more dangerous. The SASE blueprint improves business security with software-defined edge networking, user-focused authentication, access control, and seamless integration across the cloud. Gartner forecasts the SASE market will reach nearly $15 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 36%.
At its core, SASE enables a corporate network to be deployed over the internet, which is a route many small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) take because it's a scalable solution that doesn't require specialized hardware. Many of the SMBs launching today are cloud-native, so they aren't trying to retrofit their legacy technology with a new solution.
Since SASE's emergence, we've seen the growth of secure service edge (SSE), which takes some of the focus off networking and puts it more on security. SSE is built to meet the evolving security needs of SMBs. Let's take a look at why SMBs are drivers of business change, how SSE is different from SASE, and why the SMB use case will determine the future of SASE.
Same business challenges, different technology hurdles
Every company's top objective is to be as profitable and effective as possible. How a company gets there, however, differs depending on its size. While a large enterprise may take months to adopt a new technology that advances or secures its business, SMBs are better positioned to act quicker because there are fewer processes involved in decision-making, and implementation is less of a hassle because the organization is smaller.
That agility and speed of adopting new technology has allowed SMBs to endure difficult economic times. According to a report from Salesforce, 71% of growing SMBs report they survived the pandemic because of digitization.
SMBs are also faster at migrating to the cloud (if they weren’t already there) than enterprises and have less legacy equipment that needs to be supported or replaced. According to Flexera’s 2022 State of the Cloud Report, 57% of SMBs have workloads in public clouds, compared to 49% of large enterprises. SMBs are more used to having a distributed attack surface and understand that they need a modern security solution to protect all those assets.
SASE was an attractive alternative to legacy security solutions that could be quickly implemented. It enabled SMB growth because of its scalability and cloud-based nature, which traditional strategies can’t provide.
Consolidated, centralized security management
SASE is a holistic strategy that includes a software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and Secure Web Gateway (SWG).
Many organizations are finding that the emergence of fast internet delivery through fiber and 5G allows them to use the internet as the new corporate network and decreases the need for a dedicated SD-WAN or multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) network.
SSE is essentially a simplified version of SASE because it focuses on CASB, ZTNA, FWaaS, and SWG, making it easier for a single vendor to offer all components.
Without the networking requirement, managed service providers (MSPs) and managed security service providers (MSSPs) have an easier time offering SSE at a time when their business models are growing. According to the MSP Day Report, managed services are increasing as a proportion of overall revenue, and MSPs expect revenues to grow by more than 33% this year.
Could SSE overtake SASE?
SMBs want to focus their IT teams on day-to-day needs, and it’s harder for them to dedicate and train employees to manage security equipment and services. With SSE as a managed service solution, they don't have to since it can be easily and quickly implemented without the need for maintenance or an SD-WAN that is no longer needed.
The SMB segment of the managed services market is increasing 14% this year, according to McKinsey. This convenience factor could play a large role in how SMBs think about SSE and its popularity across organizations of all sizes moving forward.
With SMBs acting as something of a predictive force, now paving the way for growing SSE adoption, it’s time for organizations of all sizes to take a closer look at this approach to security. SSE appears to be the latest movement that’s built to make security thrive now and in the future.
Tal Laufer is VP of Product at Perimeter 81.