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Confusion abounds around true definition of SASE, but doesn’t stop take-up

Global digital transformation survey finds nine out of ten companies reviewed remote connectivity strategy during lockdown and secure access service edge gains huge interest

With the need for firms to maintain a hybrid working model in the post-Covid world, secure networks have become more important than ever, and the intention of companies to deploy secure access service edge (SASE) solutions to address this demand has skyrocketed, according to research from Versa Networks.

The Experiences and attitudes towards a post-Covid workforce survey of 501 security and networking decision-makers from the US, the UK, Germany and France was conducted online by Sapio Research on behalf of the network solutions provider in May 2021.

The top-line finding was that 84% of businesses had accelerated their digital transformation and move to the cloud during the pandemic, and almost half (44%) of businesses anticipated that their employees would continue to work remotely, either full- or part-time, once pandemic restrictions were lifted.

And with remote working firmly established, SASE was equally firmly on the agenda of businesses. Just over a third (34%) of respondents said they had adopted SASE in the past year and an additional 30% planned to do so in the next six to 12 months.

The survey showed that lessons learned during the pandemic have contributed to the adoption of SASE, which its proponents say promises the best of security and high-performing, reliable connectivity across cloud, hybrid and on-premise networks.

The survey findings revealed that IT and security teams have struggled to deal with multiple complaints from workers, with more than a third (36%) of respondents’ users complaining of dropped connections when using bandwidth-hungry applications such as video conferencing, and just under a third (31%) suffering from the lack of real-time tech support. Security issues have abounded, including the inability to enforce security policies across the remote workforce (37%) or to spot new threats facing users (34%), according to respondents.

“While SASE has served businesses well during lockdown, it will also prove a major asset as they contemplate the move back to the office and towards hybrid working”
Michael Wood, Versa Networks

Given this picture of fractured security policies and failing connectivity, companies were found to be moving towards SASE to fix the problems, with nearly nine out of ten companies (87%) re-evaluating their remote connectivity policy over the past year. SASE has overtaken virtual private networks (VPNs) as the connectivity of preference, with 23% implementing VPNs versus 34% choosing SASE.

Despite this rapid uptake of SASE, however, more than two-thirds (69%) of IT and security professionals surveyed admitted they were confused about its true meaning. A mere 31% of respondents were able to correctly identify the definition of SASE as “the convergence of networking and security services like CASB, FWaaS and zero trust into a single cloud-native service model”.

Despite the confusion, the top reason for adopting SASE was clear: to improve the security of devices and applications used by remote users, cited by 43% of the survey respondents. This was closely followed by 31% stating the desire to prioritise the performance and delivery of business-critical applications in the cloud and 31% the need to support more remote workers as key reasons behind SASE adoption.

Yet even if firms were not universally aware of exactly what SASE means, they knew of its value. Nine out of ten businesses prioritised security ahead of visibility and control, bandwidth and connectivity, or user experience when adopting SASE. While security was found to be the most compelling reason for deploying SASE, for three in five businesses the responsibility for deciding to implement SASE rested with the IT team versus executive staff, the C-suite or the board of directors.

Looking at networking issues, the survey found that the IT team ranked way ahead (49%) of any other department as the most likely to complain about unreliable connectivity. Video conferencing and collaboration apps such as Zoom have posed the greatest challenges in terms of consistent performance and reliability, according to 36% of respondents.

“The survey paints a clear picture of the burden of pressures and challenges that IT and security teams have been struggling with during the pandemic,” said Versa Networks’ chief marketing officer, Michael Wood. 

“While the survey shows that there is still some work to do in educating IT and security professionals about the true meaning of SASE, the imperative to address both remote security and connectivity issues has led companies away from the old VPN technologies that were riddled with security holes, and towards SASE, which gives them a compass for the future,” he added. “While SASE has served them well during lockdown, it will also prove a major asset as they contemplate the move back to the office and towards hybrid working.”

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