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How to find the right balance between WAN security and performance

The number of people working outside a primary office from remote locations like branch offices or even at home is increasing, creating security and wide area network optimization challenges for organizations.

Businesses that need to support remote office employees don't need to sacrifice network speed for security. Use these strategies to find the right balance between wide area network (WAN) security and performance.

The number of people working outside a primary office from remote locations like branch offices or even at home is increasing, creating WAN security and performance optimization challenges for organizations. Most organizations typically have some technology in place to secure IT and network resources at each branch office, but the bulk of these security solutions are being deployed in central network locations to control and manage data that is being sent to each remote location. Even though this type of approach reduces management costs, it can also reduce a company's ability to deal directly with WAN security threats at each branch location.

Also, many organizations find it difficult to compress and accelerate Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) traffic without increasing the security risks and creating new management challenges. Accelerating this type of traffic creates an additional burden for Web servers because they must decrypt and re-encrypt SSL traffic, as well as process end-user requests.

Enhance WAN security through policy management of business-critical applications

Many organizations are still struggling with making educated decisions about defining network usage policies to ensure a proper balance between securing and optimizing performance of business-critical applications. It is important to ensure that the network usage policies in place protect a company's networks from malware, spyware and other security threats. At the same time, however, the security policies that are developed should not have a detrimental effect on the quality and consistency of the end-user experience.

End-user organizations often get into a position where they have to decide which is more important: protecting the data being delivered over the WAN or achieving the optimal level of end-user experience for applications being accessed by remote users. This should not be a dilemma, as both of these goals can be achieved if the right mix of technology and internal processes is in place.

The inability to effectively manage speed, availability and security of applications delivered over the WAN can have a significant impact on a company's business performance. Organizations struggling to execute effectively on these initiatives could experience lost revenue opportunities, declines in employee productivity and increased IT management costs.

More on WAN security and performance

Learn how WAN security and application threats affect the WAN in this Q&A with security expert Kevin Beaver.

Take it from principal analyst John Burke: WAN applications performance shouldn't suffer as demands and complexity increase.

This tip explains how using network virtualization can simplify WAN management and security.

Learn how to secure and optimize backhauled branch office connections.

Likewise, the inability to prevent WAN security and performance problems when delivering applications to end users that are "customer-facing" (like sales, customer service, etc.) could lead to lost revenue opportunities. If these employees cannot access corporate data in a seamless way while communicating with customers and prospects, the result may be problems with customer satisfaction, longer sales cycles and damage to the organization's brand image.

In addition, slow and not readily available applications can cause disruptions of business processes if business-critical data cannot be delivered to employees when they need it. This leads to increased idle time for employees and causes a decline in their productivity.

As well as benefits that organizations can derive from being able to address any WAN security and performance risks in a timely manner, the use of integrated platforms for managing both WAN security and performance can also be an advantage. In some cases, this may be a single product; in other cases, it may be a combination of different products that have a high degree of integration. These benefits predominantly include cost savings on implementation and management.

Continue reading the tip series below or see our WAN security and performance tutorial for more background:

  • Find a balance between WAN security and performance

  • How network visibility improves WAN performance

  • What your performance management solution needs for VDI monitoring

Deploying two or more different tool sets for managing application performance is associated with several management challenges for organizations' IT departments. In addition to having the time to implement and being able to manage each solution, organizations need to ensure that these products can work together in a seamless way. In other words, they need to ensure that the security solution(s) they have implemented are not causing problems with delivery of critical data to end users -- and vice versa. Organizations are expecting an optimal level of end-user experience for business users, and mistakes in defining security policies can very often negatively affect end users' ability to access their data. At the same time, as important as it is for organizations to improve and maintain an optimal level of end-user experience, they need to be aware of security and compliance issues and be able to keep their data protected.

It is apparent that using a single solution that can effectively address both WAN security risks and performance management challenges would reduce the cost of implementation. Leveraging a single platform for managing WAN security and optimization also allows organizations to achieve significant savings in cost of maintenance, facility and labor.

This was last published in February 2011

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