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Gaining a WFH competitive advantage with SD-WAN for the insurance sector

By Al Taylor, co-founder and CTO at cloudDNA

We’re all familiar with the frustration of poor connectivity while working from home, but what has been interesting is the perception around the new digital divide which like the historic north/south conversation comes down to something almost as fundamental. Those with good connection quality and speed in the home are now perceived to have the upper hand over those who struggle to keep connected throughout the day. For many insurers, the cultural shift to long term home working has been proven, and the challenge facing the industry now is keeping all of those users productive and compliant.

Staff sitting in a building with purpose-built IT infrastructure make service delivery secure and predictable. The insurance sector spends millions on office IT but expect users working from home to be just as productive and compliant with little more than a laptop and a VPN over the public internet. It’s a square peg in round hole kind of conversation. What’s really needed is a way to consolidate all of the IT infrastructure typically deployed in an office into a cost effective, small device that can be simply deployed in home locations. Some SD-WAN solutions provide this depth of functionality and they are revolutionising the way services are delivered to home workers.

SD-WAN complements the existing home internet with built in 4G connectivity, giving it a choice of multiple paths between the user and the data source. Choose a vendor offering that focuses on the user experience and just like intelligent sat nav on a car, SD-WAN chooses the best route for each fragment of data delivered to the user, allowing it to instantly steer around problems. This in turn improves connection stability and ensures the best possible performance for everything delivered, including real time services like Teams and Zoom. No more frozen video or dropped audio, just clear, uninterrupted communication for staff and customer meetings.

While the traditional data centre is going to stay around for the time being at least, the adoption of cloud hosting in Azure and AWS or ‘software as a service’ risk management and collaboration platforms has completely changed the delivery model. It’s no longer the data in the centre with the users around the outside, the user now typically sits at the edge of a vast interconnected range of services all of which need access control and some form of user accountability for compliance. This new Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) delivery model has become a hot IT topic and a key focus of several SD-WAN vendors for 2021 and beyond. Access to services can be controlled by the home device with both real time and historical user data providing an additional layer of visibility for compliance management. It’s effectively controlling who can do what from where and providing an audit trail after the event.

The connectivity provided by SD-WAN between the home and the data source is secured using the same encryption technology as the laptop VPNs that millions of users have relied on since long before lockdown 1.0, but with some added advantages. Insurers hold vast quantities of sensitive personal and corporate data, so the home device often features the ability to provide a completely isolated, secure, corporate Wi-Fi network in the home that is only accessible by authorised devices. Security is typically top of the agenda for anyone in the industry responsible for IT so this ability to shield corporate services from threats, even those launched from compromised video doorbells and smart TVs within the home, is a significant advantage over legacy laptop/VPN architectures.

Plug and play deployment allows the device to be shipped to the home with a simple three step guide. Plug it in to the home internet router, push a mobile SIM card in the front and power it up, that’s it. The configuration and corporate policies are delivered remotely without user intervention, effectively turning the home office into a secure branch location in as little as 15 minutes.

Al Taylor, cloudDNA co-founder and CTO, has helped organisations of all sizes deliver new levels of availability, security and user experience to millions of cloud and branch users worldwide. Technical author, blogger and presenter, he is a regular speaker at IT industry events such as IP & Digital Transformation Expo Europe, the Citrix UK User Group, Citrix Summit and Citrix Synergy, the vendor’s annual global customer event in the USA.

Taylor is a Citrix Certified Expert – Networking (CCE-N), holds Citrix Networking for Data Centres Specialist practicum certification and is the only person to sit on both the global Citrix Partner Technical Expert Council and the Citrix EMEA Partner Executive Councils.

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