By Sean Campbell, Director, Canadian Channels, Fortinet
No one needs to be reminded of the pace and scope of change in recent weeks. IT teams are under pressure like never before. It’s also clear that cybercriminals have had no intention of slowing down. The influx of new devices and end-users connecting from home offices have prompted threat actors to deploy new, sophisticated attacks, including health-related phishing scams, to achieve their goals. Furthermore, as governments begin to gradually usher in a new economic normal, these cyber challenges are likely to only increase.
Some partners may be reluctant to engage in conversations with clients at a time when they’re managing significant operational change, or disruption in revenue. That’s understandable, and there’s no doubt clients are preoccupied. Handled correctly, there is also opportunity for partners to further enhance their position as a trusted advisor. Cybersecurity is a timely and topical area of concern, and one that should not be avoided. Now more than ever, it’s important to prioritize three key areas – ensuring stability and continuity, cyber hygiene, and deploying a long-term platform designed for the modern world of flexible work, including one that may lean hard into telework for years to come. That’s where partners should focus their efforts in the weeks ahead.
Plan for the future
For companies seeking more resilient operations, a great place for partners to start is to help them get more out of what they already have. We recently worked with a telecommunications provider that, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, had no remote work policy and limited VPN support.
However, within a matter of days, thanks to their security infrastructure already in place, the organization’s entire workforce was able to transition over 2,000 employees to secure remote access of the organization’s network with no additional capital expenditure (CapEx). For this company, the VPN functionality integrated into their existing FortiGate network firewall enabled a rapid, secure transition to a remote workforce.
Many companies are looking for fast solutions that require no additional capital expenditure. Now’s the perfect time to their trusted advisor to show them what’s possible.
Now’s the time to consider SD-WAN
Many companies are likely still focused on the short term to set up and keep remote workers connected and productive. But long-term thinking cannot sit on the back burner for too long. When they do begin to look to the future, especially as we enter the “new normal” phase of out business economy, companies will find themselves at the convergence of two critical trends: resuming their long-term digital transformation strategies and making sure their infrastructure is designed to ensure business continuity and disaster recovery, ensuring they can stay productive even amidst a crisis.
A secure SD-WAN solution is the optimal solution to both challenges. On the continuity front, SD-WAN provides significant advantages for remote workers, especially during times of rapid transition. It is not only an ideal solution for branch offices, it can also be deployed to support power users, such as remote IT technical support, emergency support teams, and executives who need secure access to a wide range of network services, including corporate finance, customer information, and other sensitive data.
As IT teams are well aware, a large remote workforce boosts demand for critical applications such as voice, video, and screen sharing. A secure SD-WAN solution monitors those connections, so should bandwidth conditions degrade for a given application it can seamlessly switch to a better performing WAN link – without any impact on application delivery. And in a worst-case scenario, where all WAN links are degraded, it can remediate these network conditions with advanced techniques such as forward error correction.
As companies resume their digital transformation efforts, tapping into cloud solutions will continue to be a critical factor. But it’s important to remember that cloud providers offer only limited security, and that companies that run a patchwork of point solutions leave themselves greatly exposed to cloud security breaches. Cloud-scale SD-WAN solutions provide instant multi-cloud access for the rapid adoption of shared applications such as Office365 and Zoom. And its built-in security adds another layer of secure access to these applications, while providing low latency connections through public internet links so they can become part of the trusted and reliable WAN infrastructure.
Foster a culture of cyber hygiene
Let’s face it – most employees don’t spend their days thinking of ways to work more securely. They need to be taught how to detect threats, understand the evolving threat landscape, understand why policies and procedures are important to protect their data and their employer’s integrity, and then make the right decisions – all without interfering with their daily tasks.
One benefit of telecommuting is the extra time that comes from not having to drive into the office every day. Employees should be encouraged to use this time to learn something new, or to simply refresh their knowledge. Online cybersecurity training can play a vital role in helping organizations get ahead of new security risks. By expanding their security knowledge base, individuals can build critical skills that can be extremely useful now, and even more valuable down the line. Partners can leverage Fortinet’s NSE Institute – especially modules 1 and 2, which provide an essential overview of the threat landscape, and which are also available free of charge – to help their customers quickly implement a critical training program, while also demonstrating their value-add to their customers at a critical time.
Additional levels also offer the opportunity for technical upskilling, also for free.
Implementing the right cybersecurity strategies for remote workers, the core network, and across the cloud, and preparing people to operate safely in these dynamic environments, is critical. Now’s the perfect time for partners to begin asking the right questions, and begin to lay the foundation for people and architectures long into the future.