To Protect Your Business In The Era Of Remote Working, Just Say ‘SASE’

Thanks to the boom in remote work, and increased focus on security measures that protect the increasingly nebulous and vulnerable edges of an organization’s network, this new acronym is suddenly on the tongues of C-suite leaders.

If you’re among the large contingent of business leaders who expect remote work to be part of their organizational “new normal,” it’s probably time to become familiar with a bit of IT-speak, and the acronym “SASE” in particular.

SASE, a term coined within the past few years by the consulting firm Gartner that stands for Secure Access Service Edge (and pronounced “sassy”), is, in tech parlance, the unifying construct that converges the communication network and network security. SASE’s emergence has been timely in light of the pandemic-driven move to remote working and the heightened network security risks that accompany it. As productive as that move has been — 83% of employers say the shift to remote work has been successful for their company, according to a recent PwC executive survey — most U.S. companies now expect to operate with a hybrid office workweek. About one-third (32%) of the execs surveyed by PwC indicate their company is likely to increase the level of remote work, another 11% say they expect many of their employees to work remotely a significant amount of the time, and 13% are prepared to give up their office altogether in favor of a fully remote workforce.

With this pronounced (and likely to some extent, permanent) shift to remote working, more companies are prioritizing providing employees with access to the company network, and the resources, systems and apps attached to it, wherever they happen to be working and whichever device they’re using. That in turn puts a premium on security measures that protect the increasingly nebulous and vulnerable edges of an organization’s network, its data and users. Which is why the term SASE is suddenly on the tongues of so many in the C-suite.

SASE enables the secure, “anytime, anywhere” network access that businesses need to support the growth of remote working. By 2024, according to Gartner, 40% of enterprises are projected to have explicit strategies to adopt SASE. From the C-level perspective, SASE represents a significant step forward in security for cloud-first enterprises, with functions that are delivered as-a-service and available wherever they’re needed at a network’s edge. SASE often is paired with — here’s another useful tech term to know — an increasingly popular network construct known as SD-WAN, short for software-defined wide-area network, that intelligently routes network traffic from remote locations to the cloud over the Internet.

Why spend a few minutes geeking out about SASE and SD-WAN? Because these are technologies that tie directly back to your company’s broader digital and business goals, not only with regard to remote working and the cloud but also in protecting your network and the critical data flowing across it. Here are a few of the most compelling reasons to consider SASE (in tandem, perhaps, with SD-WAN):

• Multiple layers of security, including encryption, web gateways, zero-trust network access (ZTNA, another tech term worth knowing), firewall as a service and more. These layers are ubiquitously available anywhere and anytime, with access granted based on the identity of the user, device and application.

• Enterprise-level and enterprise-wide security around any type of connection, including broadband and cellular internet connections.

• Simplified deployment. Security policy can easily be managed centrally and enforced locally, whether employees are working remotely or at the office.

• Scalability. As a cloud-based service, SASE is inherently scalable to the shifting contours of a business, its workforce and its network.

• Improved network performance with key apps such as web conferencing.

• Lower operational overhead. Responsibility for running and maintaining security engines rests with the SASE provider, not your IT department.

One more important reason to consider SASE: Talent. People want to work — and do their best work — for an organization that gives them the flexibility and the rich, secure digital experience to do their job well, and do it from anywhere.

Layne Levine is president of the Enterprise business unit of Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network communications and technology solutions for consumers, small businesses, enterprise organizations and carrier partners across the U.S.