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Using SD-WAN to address the business needs of financial services organizations

By Renee Tarun, deputy CISO, Fortinet

With branch offices spread across city, state, and even country borders, financial services organizations have long grappled with the challenge of providing robust, secure, and cost-effective connectivity to remote locations. The pandemic-driven rise of working from home, however, has increased these challenges exponentially by expanding the number of remote offices needing to be connected to the corporate network.

This has led to increased bandwidth requirements and more applications moving to the cloud. And as a result, traditional MPLS connections have proven to be ineffective. Not only are they costly for distributed organizations that continue to grow, but these connections also inhibit – and sometimes, prohibit – visibility, security, and performance as new locations proliferate.

Supporting Evolving Business Requirements with SD-WAN

With the ongoing restrictions and shutdowns occurring around the globe, certain business applications have grown in importance for financial services organizations trying to maintain business continuity. One such organization, with more than 500 employees and branches across the Middle East and Africa, discovered that the single MPLS and internet link they had in place at each location was significantly hindering their business-critical voice and video applications. A connectivity issue like this could have negative impacts on both employee collaboration as well as customer interactions.

This organization also needed to provide reliable and secure access to the corporate network from all of its locations. The search began for an SD-WAN solution that would provide application steering with service-level agreement (SLA) performance, while supporting multiple WAN connections from a number of remote offices. On top of this, the company also sought a feature-rich SD-WAN solution that could support their evolving business needs well into the future.

Examining secure SD-WAN as an option

Renee Tarun
Renee Tarun

Underpinning the company’s search for the right solution was the ongoing pressure to contain and reduce costs across their IT environment (as with almost all financial services organizations.) And while protecting the organization’s extremely sensitive data was a top priority for both business and compliance reasons, security couldn’t come at the expense of network performance.

After evaluating several solutions, they determined that a security-driven networking approach to SD-WAN offered more bang for the buck, providing the tools the company needed in a way that would allow them to simultaneously control costs and optimize operational efficiency. It combined both networking and security within a single solution to provide high-speed application and performance as well as built-in next-generation firewall functionality.

A secure SD-WAN solution also provided the company with simplified manageability and scalability, a fact that was especially important as new offices began to open in the future.

Experiencing the benefits of secure SD-WAN

Having the right secure SD-WAN in place delivers the combined benefits of WAN optimization, traffic shaping, automation, next-generation firewall, and more. Since implementing their chosen solution, the company has improved their operations with:

  • Centralized management and reporting: The company has been able to easily and quickly deploy secure SD-WAN at their remote branch locations, reducing the need for additional IT staff. Improved visibility and control across the entire network infrastructure have also been also gained.
  • Intelligent application steering: Their new secure SD-WAN solution is also able to intelligently identify applications to determine the most optimal path to be taken in order to deliver and enhanced application experience – even during brown out or black out conditions.
  • Integrated Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) functionality: Integrated NGFW functionality, including deep SSL inspection capabilities, was a critical requirement for the company. Their chosen secure SD-WAN solution was able to deliver this processor-intensive service without compromising on performance.

Seeking the Right Solution

As financial services organizations add more branch offices and remote workers, and increasingly embrace cloud applications and infrastructure, they need secure connectivity solutions that can enable fast, secure, and compliant access to the core network and cloud-based applications. SD-WAN is increasingly seen as the solution for addressing these needs, but it’s important to understand that not all SD-WAN solutions are the same, especially where security is concerned. When seeking out the right solution for your organization, it’s important to evaluate the full range of specific requirements, including those that will not only support present needs, but enable the requirements of the future.