Branch Networking Defined
Branch networking refers to the elements used to distribute information to, from and among remote sites, stores, branch offices, and data centers.
Multi-site companies of all sizes, school systems, retailers and other distributed organizations of all kinds are operating branch networks. But, networking complexities and security concerns grow, many branch networks are feeling mounting pressures.
The Complexity of Branch Networks
Never have branch networks seen higher expectations for always-on connectivity than they do today. At the same time, as sites go directly to the internet, they face new security risks. Digital transformation efforts are driving locations that used to have a single, low-speed network to put in place multiple, higher-performance networks (especially for retailers with in-store wifi, video kiosks and point-of-sale stations) to handle new media and interactive cloud-based applications like Office 365. This all combines to make branch networking a difficult task for even the most adept IT team.
As a business grows, the need for new sites often requires a pace of deployment that traditional infrastructure doesn’t fully support and incurs unwanted costs to meet minimum bandwidth needs. Traditional WAN technologies such as MPLS quickly become outdated and expensive when managing a modern branch network.
Bandwidth needs and costs are only increased by the adoption of cloud computing. With the accessability of cloud and SaaS apps, rise of IoT devices, and increase in employee and consumer devices, a network’s bandwidth can quickly be driven to capacity. The increasing popularity of video and voice technologies ensure this trend is not slowing down any time soon. Branch networks with traditional WAN technologies can be time-consuming to provision and difficult to deploy.
Software-Defined Branch Networking
To combat the growing complexities of branch networks, more and more distributed organizations are turning to Software-Defined Wide-Area Networking (SD-WAN) an improved, internet-oriented approach to connecting network sites. SD-WAN technologies allow organizations to use mixtures of ISP connections per site intelligently and consolidate network operations into a single platform for greater efficiency. Many businesses look to SD-WAN as a way to augment or replace MPLS links with less expensive, commodity broadband that can reduc costs and boost bandwidth . For the latest in in SD-WAN offerings, see Forcepoint’s Secure Enterprise SD-WAN.
Security in Branch Networking and SD-WAN
As branch locations get connected directly to the Internet with SD-WAN, they become targets for internet-based attackers. “First-generation” SD-WAN solutions often ignored security, leaving it to IT teams add on top. However, this fragmented approach left gaps at a time when cyber threats are growing in number and sophistication. Modern enterprises are realizing that connectivity and security must go hand in hand if sites are to safely access the information and resources they need. In addition, taking an integrated approach is crucial for providing visibility and consistent enforcement when data is stored across multiple SaaS apps, cloud platforms, and corporate systems.
Centralized Management and Consolidation
Enterprise-oriented SD-WAN solutions enable organizations to bring network operations and management into one console. With a consistent view everywhere – from data centers to remote sites and branch offices – IT can better understand exactly what is happening throughout the network to boost security and slash response times. Add to this the ability to manage multiple types of connections, quickly provision bandwidth and spin up new sites at a lower cost, and it’s easy to see why more and more branch networks are turning to SD-WAN.