The world was already changing in 2020 when the global pandemic struck. Many organizations were planning or beginning digital transformation efforts, but the pandemic accelerated these significantly. Remote work, along with a massive increase in the use of mobile computing and data analytics, created greater demands on organizations’ networks.
The network has become an essential element that supports operations throughout an organization. In fact, Accenture reports that 77 percent of executives say IT architecture such as networking is critical to the success of their organizations.
“We’re seeing a hybrid network, with users having to work from home or from anywhere, really,” says Sven Rasmussen, enterprise networking team lead at CDW. “Organizations need networks that are secure and reliable, and that provide all the bandwidth that people need.”
As organizations make progress on their digital transformation efforts, they are looking to build out networks that deliver the greater bandwidth they need while enabling greater visibility and management and improving security. Among the advances that support these capabilities are cloud-managed networks, new wireless standards and a secure access service edge (SASE) approach to security.
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Technology Advances Enable New Networking Capabilities
To achieve their digital transformation objectives, many organizations are relying on cloud-managed networks, which can be run in-house or through a Network as a Service (NaaS) provider. Cloud management of switches, routers and access points enables IT teams to scale their networks quickly to meet changing needs. Consolidating network operations on a single dashboard enables monitoring and management capabilities that give IT teams better visibility into and control of their networks.
“Cloud managed networking is very cost-effective. You can start small and scale up easily, and you can buy as many licenses as you need without having to buy new hardware,” says Aaron Pratt, a network solution practice lead with CDW. “It enables organizations to focus on their core business rather than on hardware.”
As networks become more dispersed, the challenge of securing them becomes greater. SASE has emerged as an effective approach to security in this networking landscape. By combining software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and security service edge (SSE), IT teams can improve the performance that users see (as well as the security of data and workloads) as they access applications remotely.
The IEEE 802.11ax wireless networking standard, also known as Wi-Fi 6, delivers powerful new capabilities that support digital transformation. Wi-Fi 6E is the latest version of the standard and offers similar functionality in the 6-gigahertz range. Wireless hardware built to these standards has features that can optimize the use of bandwidth, extend battery life, speed up performance and reduce latency.
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The Power of Modern Networking Technology
As organizations adopt these powerful new networking technologies, they should expect to see significant benefits, including improved performance. For example, the orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing access (OFDMA) feature of Wi-Fi 6 allows multiple clients to communicate with a single access point simultaneously, resulting in greater efficiency and higher throughput.
Cloud-managed networks also provide administrators with a clearer look into the networks they’re overseeing. In years past, admins would respond to user complaints as a key indicator of poor network performance, but advanced network technologies can automatically detect performance issues — and even fix them — before humans realize a problem exists.
“The vast majority of organizations don't have tools to be able to know what's actually going on on their networks,” Pratt says. “That's something that new networking technology has been bringing to the table over the last couple years.”
Along with visibility, these new network tools enable simpler, more direct management of enterprise networks, powered by automation. Given that most network outages occur due to human error such as misconfigurations, automation can reduce these mistakes and improve reliability. Automated enforcement of security policies also minimizes the number of vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.
“These tools are able to manage those distributed policies,” Rasmussen says. “They can maintain security controls and protections at scale, instead of individually configuring every single device.”