How a Converged Networking and Security Solution Improves User Experience

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“The Wi-Fi is down.”

These words are perhaps some of the most dreaded among IT professionals everywhere. Whenever users experience issues accessing the corporate network, they often assume the Wi-Fi is malfunctioning. Yet IT teams know that the problem is usually more complicated. A helpdesk ticket about a compromised user experience often sends IT analysts down the proverbial rabbit hole of their networks in search of the culprit, inspecting everything from Network Access Control (NAC) technology to wired switches and wireless access points to authentication solutions.

As networks have grown in complexity and organizations have hurriedly adopted new technologies to plug IT or security holes, the result is a fragmented environment rife with point solutions that all operate independently. This siloed approach to networking and security not only contributes to unreliable end-user experiences but is also more resource intensive for IT, creating unnecessary headaches due to the need to develop and troubleshoot workarounds and hand-correlate data between isolated systems.

While networks continue to evolve at an unprecedented pace, having centralized visibility and consistent, end-to-end control across those expansive networks has never been more critical. The best way to enable this is to converge networking and security into a single, seamless solution. This approach has numerous benefits, including preserving user experience while creating efficiencies for the IT analysts responsible for monitoring and maintaining these technologies.

The Unintended Consequences of Hybrid Network Complexity

Today’s networks aren’t just permiterless: They’re expansive, continually evolving, and constantly in flux. As enterprises take greater advantage of technologies like the cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) these hybrid and highly distributed networks grow more complex daily.

The result of such rapid change is that IT and security teams without a unified platform approach often end up bolting on new point solutions to solve technology and security challenges that end up operating in siloes.

There are distinct challenges that arise for IT teams when this happens. First, organizations often procure new security solutions after the fact to protect their networks against the evolving threat landscape. While that may seem prudent from a risk management perspective, adding new security tools can negatively impact network performance if they’re not properly configured, monitored, and managed. For example, a security tool might mistakenly block legitimate traffic, thereby degrading user experience, fail to gather or share critical information needed to detect a threat or be unable to work as part of a system to automatically isolate intrusions.

Additionally, this segmented approach results in reduced visibility for IT teams, which means that when an employee says the Wi-Fi is down, there’s no quick and easy way to pinpoint the actual cause of the network issue. Is it the wireless access point or something else along the path? Or could it be a security issue? For most networks, there is no easy way to know. But when IT analysts are forced to work their way across their network technology stack inspecting numerous consoles looking for a problem, troubleshooting becomes far more laborious while delaying any required repairs or upgrades.

The Benefits of Converged Networking and Security

Many enterprises have historically focused on networking or security separately. However, for today’s networks to scale and change frequently without compromising user experience or security, organizations need to develop a security-driven networking approach that integrates the organization’s network infrastructure and security architecture.

A converged platform comprised of networking and security tools designed to interoperate offers the visibility, control, management, and agility necessary for growing organizations to respond to new demands from the business and its employees. Bringing solutions together that are designed to talk to one another—as well as monitored, managed, and orchestrated through a unified system—simplifies operations and offers real advantages for end users and IT analysts alike.

Improving Network Visibility While Preserving User Experience

Given the volume of devices and tools continually being added to our networks, IT teams spend an unsustainable amount of time and effort trying to monitor and maintain their hybrid environments. Organizations can expand visibility and control across their extended networks by converging Ethernet and Wi-Fi technologies with tools like SD-WAN. SD-WAN is foundational in extending security and networking from the LAN to the WAN to enable reliable and consistent connectivity, protection, and user experience from end to end. Full network visibility allows IT teams to anticipate and respond to issues, automate fixes, create and enforce policies, implement access control measures, and secure transactions end-to-end.

Adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) can assist IT teams by effectively and efficiently improving network visibility while managing and maintaining user experience. Many enterprises are increasingly looking to AI to reduce the time needed to detect and resolve wired, wireless, WAN gateway, or SD-WAN issues that potentially impact performance, productivity, and user experience. AI-driven tools also empower network administrators to quickly get to the root of an issue, giving them immediate answers to critical questions like, “What’s causing this outage or issue?” and “How can we address the problem and ensure we avoid it in the future?”

At the same time, DEM helps IT teams better manage user experience without dedicating new resources to the task. A DEM solution should monitor SD-WAN performance metrics such as link bandwidth, packet loss, jitter, and server response time to detect and alert IT teams about potential issues with actionable intelligence. This allows IT teams to realign user-to-application performance before user experience is impacted. Nearly two-thirds of I&O leaders say they will rely on DEM by 2026 to monitor and measure application, services, and endpoint performance to address challenges before they impact the business.

A Win for IT Teams and Employees

Building, managing, and maintaining networks isn’t easy. And IT teams increasingly face new demands daily as enterprises pursue digital transformation strategies and embrace remote work.

That’s why a security-driven network that converges Ethernet and Wi-Fi with security is essential for today’s dynamic hybrid environments. And when that strategy is extended to the WAN using SD-WAN and augmented with tools like AI and DEM, enterprises can harness the power of complete network visibility. With this approach, IT professionals get the management, automation, orchestration, interoperability, and security advantages they need to meet changing business objectives while ensuring consistent user experience. 

Find out how the Fortinet Security Fabric platform delivers broad, integrated, and automated protection across an organization’s entire digital attack surface to deliver consistent security across all networks, endpoints, and clouds.

 

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