Cloud and Mobile Are Replacing the LAN Infrastructure — What You Need to Know
The emergence of smartphones and cloud computing have redefined network security for enterprise IT teams.
With the growing popularity of cloud computing and mobile networking, the gap between modern networks and their traditional predecessors is becoming increasingly wide.
Especially in enterprise environments, local area networks (LANs) have been the predominant internet access pathway for years. The fabric of the internet emerged from individual buildings — and eventually, entire corporate and educational campuses — laying the structured cabling necessary to connect all of their systems in a local network.
This site-centric network architecture enables IT professionals to ensure network and data integrity by implementing any number of “moat” or “outer wall” security measures. In other words, within a LAN-based system, IT teams can perform initial registration and authentication of onsite internet-enabled devices and then focus the bulk of their long-term energy and resources on monitoring and managing traffic coming in or out of the enterprise LAN.
In short, a traditional LAN enables an enterprise to secure its own house and then defend it from any and all external cybersecurity threats — hence the moat/wall metaphor. Unfortunately for IT professionals, site-based networking is rapidly falling out of favor, thanks to the undeniable convenience of (predominantly) mobile-based cloud computing.
The Risks of Cloud-Based, Mobile-First Infrastructure
Though still very much a part of LAN infrastructure, the arrival of enterprise WiFi had the effect of freeing the average worker from their desk or workstation. Getting things done no longer required posting up within ethernet cable-distance of a wall jack, meaning employees were theoretically able to work wherever they wanted within the office.
This freedom was amplified even further by the creation of the first smartphones around a decade ago, and has finally been cemented by the ongoing cloud revolution.
The enterprise IT world’s pivot from LANs to diffuse cloud-based, mobile-first networks has made it necessary to shift from port-based networking infrastructure to what might be called device-based networking infrastructure. As substantial portions of critical enterprise data move to the cloud, employees are increasingly able to access all of the information they need to do their job from any device, anywhere in the world.
If an enterprise’s employees are well-trained and diligent about their online behavior, they will only access valuable cloud-hosted data over secured networks. Quite frequently, however, this is not how things actually play out. Most employees like to check their company email, or do work on Salesforce, or edit a Google Sheet while on the go, and the WiFi networks provided in these kinds of locations are rarely equipped with substantive cybersecurity protocols.
Achieving Security in the New Era of Networking
As complex as this new paradigm in networking may be, there are steps that enterprise IT teams can take to ensure that data leakage is kept to a minimum.
For one, they can replace user-authentication protocols like username/password combos with device-authentication protocols in order to restrict access to high-value cloud-hosted apps and data. This won’t automatically mitigate all of the problems stemming from employees using insecure networks to access company systems, but it doesn’t hurt to minimize the number of potential entryways into the company’s cloud infrastructure.
Further, if an IT team decides that certain data is simply too valuable to expose to the attendant risks of a cloud-based, mobile-first network, it can opt to sequester this data on a traditional LAN. This, of course, would reduce employees’ ease-of-access to the data, but sometimes the greater level of control over security protocols is well worth the minor inconvenience.
Finally, enterprises should make an effort to find a networking partner like Turn-key Technologies that has the expertise necessary to secure any kind of network in any industry to support any number of users. We understand that today’s enterprise networks present more difficult challenges than ever before, and our 25 years of experience have prepared us to help enterprises overcome whatever obstacles they may face in the dawning era of cloud-based, mobile-first networking.