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What is Branch Networking?

Companies are being forced to enhance their offerings due to increased competition in the corporate world. The rapid expansion of business networking is resulting in an increase in the number of branch locations, necessitating highly dependable, fast, and secure connectivity. Even the widely established wired Internet access in metropolitan areas, however, can not guarantee 100% availability. Businesses must develop alternatives to manage branches in inconveniently linked or even inaccessible places.

Branch networking is always evolving. With the expansion of branches, an increasing number of business data, voice, video, and IoT terminals are connected to the Internet. Branch networking and link backup are becoming increasingly important in order to ensure the dependability and stability of branch business.

Branch networking is a system that allows information to be transmitted between headquarters and branch offices/stores, remote sites, or data centers. It is useful and required in almost every business, whether it is a multinational bank, a food service company, a transportation organization, or a local retail chain.

To increase income and preserve client connections, all distributed organizations rely on their branch network. The difficulties of maintaining control of your IT systems and data in a multi-site organization are numerous. Whether you're a distributor, retailer, services institution, franchisor, field office, or a national brand, delivering and safeguarding information throughout your network necessitates an IT partner that is equipped to satisfy your requirements.

Why is Branch Network Security Important?

Many firms have many offices located throughout the country or around the world. To link employees to corporate resources, these branch offices use a "branch network" or "branch security network" of some kind that encompasses traffic to and from such offices. Branch networking is used by both small and big enterprises for their remote or retail sites, data centers, and branch offices to provide a secure manner for their workers to work efficiently from their locations. Organizations, on the other hand, may suffer from branch network administrators if they do not have the correct solution in place.

The difficulties of network security for a single office site are exacerbated for scattered enterprises. With over 1.6 million branch offices in the United States alone, businesses spend a total of $10 billion every year on branch networking solutions. The network edge is a wide patchwork of prospective attack surfaces, ranging from franchisees to retail sites, and headquarters to remote employees. Branch Network Security streamlines network security and internet connection in remote enterprises.

The rising quantity and diversity of devices linked to the branch network, such as IoT, phones, tablets, creates additional opportunities for hackers to access critical data. According to Gartner, one-third of all assaults occur at the branch. IT has introduced a range of security equipment at the branch over the previous decade or so, including VPNs, secure web gateways, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and next-generation firewalls. These appliances, with their overlapping functions and sometimes originating from various suppliers, add to the operational complexity at the branch.

IT firms must cooperate closely with their security departments to ensure network security. Branch network security must be integrated with the device, campus network, and data center security. In an ideal world, traffic at the branch is analyzed for abnormalities and suspicious traffic is sent to centralized resources or the cloud for further action. Branch security operations perform best when they are completely automated and make use of centralized data centers and cloud-based intelligence.

How to Ensure Branch Network Security?

To be effective, a branch deployment must seamlessly integrate security and networking capabilities throughout the whole network environment. This is where SD-Branch comes in, as it extends the functionality of Secure SD-WAN into the enterprise branch's local area network (LAN), including the WAN edge, access layer, and endpoints.

Traditional WAN designs that employ multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) have become too inflexible and expensive to administer as a result of the adoption of cloud-based technologies (e.g., SaaS applications) and their accompanying bandwidth and traffic needs. SD-WAN helps to alleviate this problem by improving network performance and saving money for branch offices. Taking it a step further, Secure SD-WAN may provide both network performance and security operations without the need for separate purchases. Going a step further, Secure SD-WAN may provide both network performance and security operations without the need for separate equipment. It can also minimize network capacity, analyze encrypted communication without producing bottlenecks in the network, and is easy to implement for IT teams.

To decrease complexity in branch infrastructure, IT teams should explore combining numerous, purpose-built appliances utilized for network operations (e.g., routers) and security capabilities (e.g., IPS/IDS). Because many next-generation firewalls (NGFW) currently support both wired and wireless networking, the functionalities of a Secure SD-WAN solution may be extended to the branch access layer. This may be accomplished by incorporating NGFW security, switches, extenders, and access points into a single interoperable system. Prioritizing this integrated strategy allows IT teams to boost agility through a single-pane-of-glass interface, hence simplifying branch administration of network access, SD-WAN, and security. They can also reduce the risks associated with having many solutions, suppliers, interfaces, and operating systems, all of which might overwhelm the system.

Network visibility is always vital, especially when it comes to safeguarding branch infrastructures. With this in mind, an efficient security platform must enable transparent identification, classification, and protection of all connected endpoints, including those coupled to devices that may have been deployed without the knowledge of the IT and security teams. And, because the endpoint is often the most vulnerable when the network is under attack, organizations must implement an SD-Branch solution that includes automated access controls to isolate vulnerable or suspicious devices; it should also include anomaly detection as part of its incident response capabilities for rapid remediation. Finally, any SD-Branch solution's centralized administration capabilities should dynamically manage network access and apply policy-based restrictions to provide consistent security across all users, apps, and devices.

What are Essential Elements for Securing Branch Office Networks?

To be safe, branch networks require an architecture that gives transparency, secures corporate resources, secures internet and cloud applications, mitigates zero-day threats, and prevents users from evading the system. These are important concerns whether you are putting together a security solution or utilizing a "branch in a box" approach that combines numerous security functions into a single physical device.

There are certain crucial elements to consider while adopting Branch Network Security to ensure the security of Branch Networks.

  • Creating Transparency
  • Securing Organizational Resources
  • Secure access to internet and cloud apps
  • Protect Against Zero-Day Threats
  • Prevent User Misconduct

Let's look at briefly to these elements;

  • Creating Transparency: Transparency or visibility in a branch networking security environment is critical for limiting system threats. You may identify potentially harmful activity and regulate access credentials with complete visibility into users who connect to the network and their devices, limiting your attack vectors.
  • Securing Organizational Resources: A corporation's digital resources include private data, customer data, dependencies, and infrastructures that enable bespoke applications, and systems used to manage important aspects of their operations. Branch network security administrators are responsible for securing these resources, whether they are on-premises, cloud-based, or a combination of both.
  • Secure Access to Internet and Cloud Apps: Cloud apps are a critical component of the infrastructure in various branch networking configurations, such as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and SD-branch configurations, making their security a primary priority.
  • Protect Against Zero-Day Threats: Zero-day risks are ones that are new to your organization's threat landscape and have thus not been researched or accounted for in cybersecurity hardware and software solutions. Because branch offices provide a diverse set of dangers owing to their dispersed locations and connectivity, zero-day threat prevention is critical.
  • Prevent User Misconduct: Every year, each branch office may welcome dozens or hundreds of new employees, allowing them to join the network. This raises the chance of an attack. It is critical to prevent user circumvention of security technologies and protocols in order to combat the resultant potential dangers. This may be accomplished through the use of restricted access restrictions, as well as better visibility and monitoring capabilities.

What are the Challenges in Implementing Secure Branch Networking?

When it comes to safeguarding branch offices, businesses encounter a number of issues. To begin, bandwidth needs are critical to ensuring staff productivity and cooperation regardless of location. Maintaining network speeds and reducing bandwidth disruptions, not to mention accounting for the expanding demands and complexity of cloud applications and the many devices that connect to the network, may soon become expensive.

Because of the rising popularity of cloud apps, there is a greater demand for a continual, stable internet connection. Popular software-as-a-service (SaaS) programs, such as Microsoft 365, Dropbox, Salesforce, Google Workspace, and Slack, make it simpler for employees working in disparate locations to collaborate while preserving access control. Traditional network technologies, such as wide area networks (WAN) and multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), are incapable of keeping up with the changing network environment or the inclusion of new services and applications that demand greater bandwidth. Sending internet traffic back to headquarters to be screened and examined cannot reasonably keep up with user requests and the sorts of material being accessed and delivered.

As firms add more services and apps, having several sites that IT personnel must protect is growing increasingly complex. Traditionally, firewalls were installed on-premises at each site, necessitating the presence of IT personnel for deployment, configuration, maintenance, and hardware troubleshooting. The more sites there are, the more gear is needed, and the more granular regulations and policies must be developed. Most firms lack the IT resources to meet the expanding demands at branch offices.

What are Branch Office Network Security Solutions?

Branch Office Security refers to the numerous security solutions implemented by enterprises to ensure that branch offices may connect to the data center, the Internet, and cloud applications in a safe, secure, and reliable manner. Previously, branches relied on centralized gateways in their data center to secure the entire organization. Traditional Wide Area Network (WAN) topology was employed, with the network communication between branch offices passing through the organization's data center on its route to the cloud.

While companies can choose from a variety of branch office security solutions, SASE and software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) are popular options.

1. SASE

SASE is a network architecture that combines software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) and security into a cloud service that offers easier WAN setup, increased efficiency and security, and suitable bandwidth per application.

While SD-WAN is designed to connect fragmented branch networks to a private network, which is often represented by a data center or corporate headquarters, SASE is designed to connect branch locations to the cloud. SASE, as the name implies, connects these branches to the service edge, which is made up of scattered points of presence (PoPs). Furthermore, while SD-WAN provides security, it does not contain security by default. SASE systems are anticipated to feature incorporated security measures, hence the inclusion of "safe access" in the name.

SASE combines SD-WAN and security capabilities and provides them as a service. Security policies are applied to user sessions depending on four factors:

  • The identity of the entity connecting
  • Context (device health and behavior, sensitivity of resources accessed) security and compliance standards
  • A continuous risk assessment throughout each session
tip

Zenarmor is one of the best SASE solutions to safeguard branch networks. It has a single-pass architecture that processes packets for all security measures in a single pass. Organizations may improve packet intelligence for identifying and stopping cyber-attacks by using Zenarmor as a Service, application management capabilities, and a deep packet inspection engine with native TLS.

SD-WAN and SASE are, for the most part, two approaches to the same goal. Which means is best for you is determined by your business requirements.

2. SD-WAN

SD-WAN is a software-defined networking (SDN) program that connects branch offices to a central data center or headquarters network. The three main components of SD-WAN architecture are:

  • Customer-premise equipment (CPE) that connects each branch location is referred to as an edge device.
  • Gateway of Service: the SD-WAN control plane and virtualized network-manager
  • Cloud Orchestrator (CLOUD ORCHESTRATOR): To deploy, monitor, and administer network services, all you need is a single pane of glass.

The potential of SD-WAN as a virtualized network overlay is as follows:

  • The ability to expand bandwidth at a reduced cost by selecting the best circuit and ISP for each branch location
  • A cloud management console reduces the requirement for on-site IT employees to deploy and administer the network.
  • Complete visibility and control over the whole network and each individual branch location

How to Manage Branch Network?

Keep your visitor's Wi-Fi separate from your company's LAN. Guest traffic should always be kept separate from your company's network. Using a separate subnet with family-friendly DNS can also assist prevent viruses from infiltrating your guest LAN.

Examine the QoS needs. QoS evaluations might become a significant element of your yearly inspections as a result of new apps, increased workers, extended locations, or just a change toward application policy enforcement.

For POS terminals, use a separate subnet. Compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard necessitates the segmentation of POS traffic (PCI DSS). An edge device with a distinct subnet on a single port can thus direct traffic to either the WAN or an LTE interface (and/or failover between the two).

When feasible, use non-standard subnets. Many ISPs utilize the common default gateway of 192.168.1.254, 192.168.1.1, or anything in the 192.168.1.0/24 range as their default gateway. Most consumer-grade devices' default settings for accessing their management interface are generally in that range as well. Select a higher subnet range in the 192.168.0.0 subnet, or utilize 10.10.0.0 or the 172.16.20.0-172.32.00 range. Each branch site should have a distinct addressing system that is tailored to its own IT network. Separate subnets can aid in security and LAN segmentation and are strongly recommended for a secure LAN environment.