In the past we had models for technology adoption and every IT analyst made a living from research and forecasts on when we would commit to tech change.  

When coronavirus hit, we moved at COVID light speed to give employees access and make the most of the challenges we faced. Again, without fuss and fanfare, the scale of the cloud enabled us to do what we had not planned. It gave us distributed remote access and helped us secure that remote access.

PwC, for instance, scaled to secure 225,000 global, multi-device-using remote workers, with no business interruptions.

Global energy services provider Schlumberger, who rarely had remote workers before COVID, faced the sudden challenge to secure its 20,000 remote user base, to ensure manufacturing operations were not disrupted. Incredibly, they went from 25,000 to 80,000 remote users in a matter of days with cloud-delivered security.  

For PwC and Schlumberger, the answer was a cloud native Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) platform operating from more than 100 locations across 76 countries. The answer was, in this case, Palo Alto’s Prisma Access security capabilities and the near-infinite scale of the Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform public clouds.

This sudden and unexpected need to support massive numbers of remote workers places tremendous strain on security infrastructure that is not optimised for rapid scale.

PwC and Schlumberger managed to deliver highly secure access to enable always-on working from anywhere. It was their prior investment in modernising their networks and running security on carrier-grade, fault-tolerant scalable infrastructure in the cloud, that ensured a seamless experience.

The cloud is now the network... you need to secure it

The pandemic demonstrated the power and scale of the cloud.

End-user spending on public cloud services is forecast to grow 18.4% in 2021 to total $304.9 billion globally. That’s triple the 6.12% increase from 2019-2020.

The initial rush to facilitate remote access saw CIO’s put a lot of security measures in place - from VPN product extensions to software solutions like Zero Trust.

The general consensus however, is that these solutions aren’t fully robust enough for securing end users in the home environment; they need to be looked at again.

The first generation of technology change in a networking context was about taking your network and running it better. The next generation is about taking your network, securing it and running it better. That's where the market is quickly moving.

There's been a lot of a lot of new products released across all the vendors trying to address this issue, but it’s not yet fully resolved.

A number of vulnerabilities associated with the security of applications and infrastructure that sit within the different major hyperscalers, for example containers such as Kubernetes, still challenge us to evolve.

The scalable, cost-effective, off-premises technology solutions that made urgent remote access possible, are the same ones changing the security paradigm forever - for the better.

The future is streamlined

New cloud apps present new risks but they also allow security teams to design in security from the start and move away from legacy.

In the past, security was thought of as a solution to deploy on top of existing infrastructure, in step with predetermined refresh cycles.

Increasing cyber security threats and events like COVID-19 illustrate the need for much more strategically integrated security.

According to new Microsoft data, 19% of businesses relying primarily upon on-premises technology do not expect to maintain a documented cyber-resilience plan. That’s because employees and customers need to be able to connect fast and securely, anywhere, anytime, for businesses to remain competitive today.

This new world is daunting, but a major benefit of SASE is that it makes implementing comprehensive network security simpler.

Rather than having multiple point solutions and security providers, as most organisations do, larger providers are now offering a full suite of security delivered from one platform.

Chief Security Executives across the industry are finding this super valuable. It reduces noise and eliminates issues associated with service changing, connecting multiple tools and gaining visibility.

This is why cloud-delivered security solutions like Palo Alto’s Prisma Access work so well. All of your security risks - whether that be around security of remote devices, security of home workers, protection of data, intrusion detection or malware - can be addressed through one platform.

COVID-19 has been the biggest test for many networks and security providers. Cloud-delivered security passed the test with flying colours. The death of another old favourite, the branch firewall, may be just around the corner.

Businesses still need to make the network work. But the complexity and risk has moved to how you secure the network.

My advice? Lean into the power of the cloud for built-in security across all endpoints. Lean into the future that’s open and secure.