Partner considerations for the Work-From-Anywhere environment

Sean Campbell, Director Canadian Channels, Fortinet

Just three years ago, the global COVID-19 pandemic changed the face of business. Millions were sent to work from home, some with very little preparation. While work-from-home (WFH) staff have been a staple for years, this massive shift required a fundamental change for organizations and their IT departments.

CIOs, CISOs, and IT departments had to scramble to modify existing work-from-home (WFH) policies and implement the tools needed to secure the ever-expanding network. Fortinet recently commissioned a global research study to understand better how this shift has impacted cybersecurity policies.

The Fortinet 2023 Work-from-Anywhere Global Study is based on a survey conducted in early January 2023 and included 570 organizations worldwide with at least 100 employees. The report’s goal was to explore how organizations respond to cybersecurity challenges resulting from the “work-from-anywhere” or WFA evolution, and it provides valuable insights channel partners can use to differentiate themselves in the market and better support their customers’ cybersecurity concerns.

Organizations still consider home networks a major security concern

Most organizations consider home and remote networks their top WFA security risk. In fact, of the companies surveyed, nearly two-thirds experienced a data breach that could be attributed to WFA-employee vulnerabilities. The risk is high because it is so challenging to extend corporate security to a non-corporate environment, enforce security protocols, and control other users accessing the home network.

Rolling out consistent policies across all locations, internal and remote, is a significant pain point that’s forced nearly half (42%) of companies to use different vendors.

Partners that can implement streamlined solutions that can enforce protocols regardless of location offer an attractive alternative that is more secure and eases the burden of already-strapped IT teams.

Companies have money to spend on cybersecurity—but aren’t clear on which technologies to focus on

Companies surveyed by Fortinet indicated that most (94%) planned for increased spending on IT, and over a third (37%) anticipated significant budget increases. Yet, they still need to be made clear on the best technologies to adopt moving forward.

One solution partners can direct customers to is third-generation SD-WAN. A cost-effective alternative to WAN infrastructure, the newest generation offers customers a solution that can enhance security, streamline operations, and improve network performance. Third-generation SD-WAN can also provide a foundational platform for Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), Zero Trust Edge, and SD-Branch solutions.

One primary benefit to converge networking and security is the way it reduces network complexity when approached as part of a security-driven networking strategy, which can reduce burdens on IT staff with centralized management and visibility through a single-pane-of-glass view. Partners can further distinguish themselves by pairing secure SD-WAN with Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) capabilities, Zero-Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and Secure Web Gateway to better respond to multi-cloud and hybrid environments and provide better performance.

Interestingly, network access control for remote workers ranked high as an IT priority. Yet, only a handful of surveyed businesses listed Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) as a key investment, while the less secure VPN approach was among the top ten.

The Working-from-Anywhere model is here to stay

While 40 per cent of those organizations surveyed anticipate going back to in-office operations, almost the same amount (37%) sees themselves following a hybrid model. It’s obvious the changes rendered during the global pandemic are likely now a permanent reality.

Yet, when it comes to WFA, many companies are still in the early stages of security implementations. While over half (58%) already cover the fundamentals, some organizations still haven’t used VPN, let alone advanced into ZTNA and other technologies. This presents an opportunity for partners to demonstrate value.

A convergence platform with consistent security no matter where users work, on or off the network, creates an opportunity for long-term business strategies as customers evolve their security posture. Offered as part of a cybersecurity mesh or fabric-based approach, partners are ensuring customers have the technology needed to thwart cyber-attacks, and the flexibility and confidence to scale business operations and advance cloud strategies.

Partners providing a platform experience give customers a complete solution capable of solving immediate problems and anticipating future needs. As a result, they are rewarded with new revenue while building crucial long-term customer relationships for continued success.

Sean Campbell is Director of Canadian Channels at Fortinet