Enhancing hybrid and remote work safety

Enhancing hybrid and remote work safety

The shift to hybrid and remote working has had a significant impact on security in the Middle East. Sherifa Hady, VP & General Manager EMEA Sales, HPE Aruba Networking, takes a closer look.

Ushered in by the trend toward digital transformation and accelerated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, today hybrid- and remote-work models have become increasingly popular across the Middle East and GCC. In a 2022 survey from Michael Page, for example, 66% of UAE-based professionals claimed they were looking for “part or full-time remote” jobs, with many stating they wished to work from home for two days per week.

The shift toward remote working models has brought greater flexibility to employees and uninterrupted productivity for organisations. However, these same arrangements also come with a unique set of challenges: How can IT teams maintain their network security while still maintaining productivity?

In short, for organisations to enable distributed teams to securely connect, collaborate and access the necessary tools and data, they must transform their network architecture.

Implementing an edge-to-cloud approach

In the past, businesses hosted the bulk of their digital applications in their own data centres, with enterprise networks built from the data centre outwards to keep applications and data secure.

The GCC data centre market is expected to grow at 8.14% CAGR between 2022 – 2028, driven by the adoption of cloud services, with hybrid multi-clouds expected to become the norm. Today, organisations are embracing a cloud-first approach that necessitates a far more sophisticated network architecture to maintain an effective ‘in-office experience’ anywhere.

Since most applications have migrated to the cloud, businesses now have the opportunity to reduce latency with a distributed security model. By deploying cloud-based technologies such as an advanced software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) and security service edge (SSE) solutions, IT teams are empowered to simultaneously secure the corporate network and improve the end-user experience.

With such technology in place, traffic generated from remote-work employees can be sent to a cloud-delivered security service that enforces access policies and delivers smooth connectivity.

This is a win-win for organisations and employees alike — providing significantly stronger network performance that boosts work productivity across locations despite the distributed nature of modern teams.

Deploying an integrated network security framework

Workplace technologies (and the strategies that govern them) must continuously keep up with the demands of hybrid work — something that IT teams are acutely aware of. However, taking a piecemeal approach isn’t likely to deliver the desired outcome of establishing and executing holistic security policies in a unified manner.

That’s why secure access service edge (SASE) has become a central part of a modern organisation’s IT security strategy. SASE comprises two ‘technology sets’ — SD-WAN and SSE — spanning core security principles such as Zero Trust. SASE takes a Zero Trust approach to access privileges and user-identity security, applying this even if users access cloud-based applications online and not directly through the corporate network.

By deploying a Zero Trust-based SASE framework, the business is well placed to streamline its security operations in a way that also enables the ‘work from anywhere’ trend. This means that, no matter if your staff are in the office or connecting through their smartphone via public Wi-Fi, you can rest assured that the connection is protected.

Expanding the boundaries of safe ‘in-office experiences’

Being able to manage security from a single point of visibility and control, whether you have a wired, wireless, or wide-area network (WAN) connection, is also important.

Dispersed workgroups across home offices and remote locations have placed immense pressure on IT teams, who now have to secure a wider range of connected devices than ever before. Without unified security policies and a centralised point of visibility and control, IT teams find themselves having to manually gather data from several disparate tools, which takes much longer to do and increases the risk of human error.

To eliminate this problem, some organisations have taken drastic measures: locking down employee access. However, this hinders productivity and creates a negative employee experience. As such, businesses must embrace technologies that can address fragmented network operations while uniformly applying zero-trust policies. This, again, is why SASE frameworks are so effective: they enable stronger, secure supervision of network access and easier centralised management via a single cloud-native point of control.

By striking a balance between strong security and location flexibility when dealing with network access, businesses can delight employees with an improved user experience. But crucially, ensure this experience does not increase their vulnerability to cyberattacks. With a strong preference for remote working arrangements, restrictive work policies will leave organisations struggling to recruit and retain employees, which in and of itself, is an ever-present struggle across the GCC.