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Scaling the public sector securely

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Jonathan Wright, Director of Products and Operations at GCX, explores how modern networking solutions can help the public sector scale.

The public sector has been slow to meet the demands of digital transformation. According to the National Audit Office, outdated IT systems and ageing data are key sources of inefficiency in public services. As the volume of available data continues to grow, along with the number of applications for which its analysis can prove valuable, the public sector needs to adopt the latest advancements in network overlay technologies to scale securely. 

Changing conditions

In the public, as in the private sector, data is the lifeblood of the modern workplace. Combining self-created data sets with external data can enhance the output of data analytics, helping public sector agencies simplify processes, such as reducing hospital waiting times, optimising the timing of public works, and changing the routes of refuse lorries. Firstly, that data must be collected – whether that’s directly from existing systems or by remote IoT sensors – and sent, via Wi-Fi, to a building collector, before moving over a network connection to a data lake from where it can be analysed to provide the necessary valuable insights. 

It goes without saying, of course, that the quality of that connection is critical. Carrier networks have improved over the years. Advancements in software-defined networking, for instance, have made network solutions easier to deploy and use alongside underlying technologies such as broadband, fibre and 4G. Combining cheap network bandwidth and high-capacity delivery options like 5G with new security protocols means public sector technology solutions can scale rapidly for new sites, services and users. 

At the same time, the growing migration of applications to the cloud has seen increased levels of SD-WAN adoption, as organisations look for ways to strengthen connectivity, reduce costs, and gain greater control and visibility of their networks. However, the growing use of IoT sensors and the shift to hybrid and remote working practices means that SD-WAN is no longer suitable for the flexible models sought by public sector organisations today.

Overlaying SD-WAN

Originally tasked with optimising application traffic for a better user experience, SD-WAN is primarily an on-premises network access technology – and so, at odds with today’s ways of working. Not only is SD-WAN unable to scale (although it may have been considered secure for use by office-based businesses) it also fails to provide consistent security for employees using external devices or working from remote locations, and also for the important IoT sensors used to collect data. 

Its authentication process means networks that rely on SD-WAN will have limited visibility over subscribers’ traffic and behaviour, hampering an organisation’s ability to detect threats. Each device added to the network represents another entry point that could be exploited by cyber-criminals. In today’s increasingly sophisticated threat landscape, this simply isn’t sufficient. 

Many organisations have invested a great deal of money in SD-WAN, though, and will therefore be reluctant to abandon it. The good news is that, by implementing new overlay technologies like Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) over their existing SD-WAN infrastructure, they don’t have to. 

With stronger security features including Data Loss Prevention (DLP), a cloud-centric security framework like SASE builds on SD-WAN by providing end-to-end protection, making it equally as effective as enforcing security on remote endpoints as it is on office-based devices. 

Single stack 

With enhanced security – on every device, regardless of its location – and with improved visibility over network performance, SASE solutions allow public sector organisations to enjoy greater flexibility, and scale to meet the growing demands on their networks. But these aren’t the only benefits they represent. By merging network and cybersecurity solutions into a single, more controllable stack, they help ensure that an organisation’s network budget is more accurately spent.

It’s true that many network solutions already deliver cybersecurity solutions as part of a single stack. But, while they can offer best-in-class security solutions such as DLP, Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM), they are rarely managed effectively. Sensible integration is required to avoid the possibility of gaps in vulnerabilities. A single stack, such as that enabled by SASE, which is more focused on holistic management of a network and its security alike, will help organisations save money while gaining better control of their IT estates. 

The public sector is not immune from the need for digital transformation. The collection and analysis of a wide range of data, from various sources, is essential for the insights needed to deliver new and improved services. SD-WAN is an innovative solution for optimising application traffic, but the fact that it remains on-premises means it is no longer enough to meet network and security management demands. Especially for the needs of today’s data-hungry public sector organisations on the move. 

The security, flexibility, and network visibility of newer overlay technologies like SASE mean the public sector can continue to deliver services – securely and cost-effectively – and meet the demands of an increasingly digital future for all.

Picture of Jonathan Wright
Jonathan Wright
Director of Products and Operations at GCX

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