A Definitive Guide on Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) And How It Can Benefit Your Business

A network of lines with the panorama of a city in the background.
A network of lines with the panorama of a city in the background.
Source: Geralt on Pixabay

Remote working and a greater foray into the cloud have led to a demand for immediate, secure, and uninterrupted access to cloud resources from anywhere in the world. Today, businesses want an integrated cloud service that secures their underlying networking architecture across all cloud environments without affecting user access to data and SaaS applications. The solution lies in the form of a framework called Secure Access Service Edge, or SASE for short.

In addition to security, SASE delivers better agility, improved collaboration, higher productivity, and more. If you’re looking to embrace SASE or just curious to know what this framework is all about, this article is for you. Read on to learn what SASE is, how it works, its benefits, and more!

Let’s start with a concise definition.

What Is SASE?

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a unified cloud-delivered service that consists of the following components:

  • Secure Web Gateway (SWG) 
  • Cloud Security Access Broker (CASB)
  • Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)
  • Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS)
  • Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN)

You can typically find this service offered by a single vendor.

Secure Access Service Edge allows employees to securely connect to internal network resources from around the world. At the same time, it provides employers with a way to stay on top of traffic that enters and exits their networks. In this sense, SASE converges security and accessibility in the cloud through a single management platform.

So, how does SASE meet the dynamic needs of a business and its distributed workforce? You can find the answer to this question in the next section!

How Does SASE Work?

SASE works by moving all network security and controls to the cloud edge, unlike a centralized data center seen in traditional networks. It implements the previously mentioned components (SWG, CASB, ZTNA, FWaaS, and SD-WAN) to enable users to access resources securely. Here’s a brief look into how these components help with SASE architecture and its implementation.

Secure Web Gateway (SWG)

SWG is a cybersecurity solution that can block access from malicious websites and links and prevent unsecured or unknown traffic from entering your network. SWG can also defend a large attack surface from possible cyberattacks such as DDoS attacks. Moreover, it can prevent data leaks.

You can implement SWGs in traditional networking too, but only through dedicated hardware that can decrypt and inspect traffic. This can get expensive, and it isn’t scalable. In comparison, an SWG in the cloud is flexible and scalable, with no additional investment. 

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

CASB is a cloud-based security policy enforcement service that sits between cloud users and the apps they’re trying to access. Essentially, CASB provides role-based access to data and apps and, in the process, reduces the chances of unauthorized access. It can also control shadow IT and ensure regulatory compliance. 

Like SWGs, you can also deploy a CASB in a traditional network, but it won’t be effective. This is because it can cause latency issues and drive your users to find workarounds for security. As a result, this will increase security risks for your business overall.

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

ZTNA is a cloud-based solution that ensures streamlined access to data and applications. Specifically, it provides access to specific resources for authorized employees based on a strict authentication and authorization process

An image of a blue fingerprint with a line running in the middle against a black background.
Authenticating on the Web.
Source: ar130405 on Pixabay

In a traditional network, you typically use VPNs and on-prem firewalls for the same purpose as ZTNA. However, a key difference is that a VPN implicitly works on the premise that users and devices are trustworthy, so a simple authentication is sufficient. 

ZTNA, on the other hand, works on the premise that no user or device is trustworthy and, therefore, has to be thoroughly authenticated. Also, on-prem firewalls authenticate at the network level while ZTNA authenticates at the application level. In essence, this means that ZTNA is far better at providing granular access than VPNs and firewalls.

Firewall as a Service (FWaaS)

FWaaS is an advanced firewall that protects data and applications from unauthorized access. It also comes with advanced capabilities such as URL content filtering, DNS security, and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) to identify malicious data packets and prevent them from entering your network. 

FWaaS is hands-down more capable than firewalls in traditional networks. Often, traditional firewalls can’t scale well enough to protect your resources in an evolving threat landscape. 

Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN)

SD-WAN is a virtual network architecture that uses software to provide seamless connections across networks. It simplifies your infrastructure’s overall setup and management and provides extensive control and visibility into your network’s operations.

In comparison, standard networks are expensive and cumbersome to set up and maintain. Another benefit of using SD-WANs is that they can transport data packets quickly as they dynamically choose the most optimized route for your traffic. Additionally, SD-WANs can run on multiple network protocols and connections. 

From the above discussion, you can understand how the different components combine to make SASE a secure, easy-to-use, and accessible cloud solution for all businesses. 

Next, I’ll drill down into 5 specific benefits of SASE.

5 Benefits of Using SASE

This section seeks to educate you on several benefits of using Secure Access Service Edge, so consider these benefits carefully before implementation.

1. Is Highly Secure

As cyberattacks become more sophisticated, you must spend more time and resources protecting your network. Secure Access Service Edge simplifies this process for you. Its many components, like SWG, CASB, and ZTNA, come together to provide seamless security for your network. 

2. Provides In-Depth Visibility

Along with security, SASE also provides detailed visibility into your network. This includes information such as who accessed what resources, which users are currently logged in to your network, and more. This information is valuable as it helps protect your networks’ assets.

3. Lowers Costs

Using SASE, costs are overall much lower than traditional networks. This is because you have a unified product that can handle a wide range of security services without compromising on accessibility for remote workers. The maintenance costs and the resulting Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) are also much lower.

The word cost on a bed of ten dollar bills.
Manage your costs with SASE.
Source: Geralt on Pixabay

4. Simplifies Your Architecture

SASE is essentially a suite of different products, so it reduces product sprawl within your network. In other words, you can use it instead of having a separate firewall, SWG, etc. Needless to say, Secure Access Service Edge simplifies your overall architecture with its advanced capabilities.

5. Streamlines Access

In today’s work-from-anywhere environment, providing seamless access to cloud resources is essential to improve productivity. At the same time, your architecture must provide access to authorized employees to prevent data leaks and cyberattacks.

In summary, Secure Access Service Edge is necessary for today’s dynamic business environment. It’s easily scalable, supports a remote work environment, and can enable your business to quickly adopt new technologies as they emerge.

You shouldn’t have any second thoughts about SASE’s positive impact on your business and its future. Next up, let’s discover some use cases!

SASE Use Cases

You can use Secure Access Service Edge across many areas to enhance productivity and add value to a business. Here are some detailed use cases:

Provides Access for Remote Employees

Remote working has undoubtedly become the new work culture. In turn, this has necessitated secure and uninterrupted access to cloud apps and services for employees, regardless of where they live or work. SASE can provide this optimized access for authorized employees.

Improves the Efficiency of Branch Offices

It’s common to have branch offices across different geographies that connect with the head office to send and receive data. However, branches tend to have low-bandwidth connections with limited resources, so the transmission is usually slow with traditional networks.

A graphic image of a world map with pins on different cities around the world.
Bring your offices together using SASE.
Source: kreatikar on Pixabay

Deploying a SASE solution creates high-performing connections that aren’t bogged down by bandwidth restrictions and latency issues. This is also a cost-effective solution as you can easily deploy and manage it across all branches, regardless of size.

Enables Migration to the Cloud

To leverage the benefits of cloud architecture, you need one that’s agile, secure, flexible, and quick. SASE fits this description perfectly, as it can enable easy and hassle-free migration to the cloud.

The above use cases are sure to give you an idea of the flexibility and versatility of SASE. Next, let’s see how you can implement it in your business to make the most of what it offers.  

How to Implement SASE in Your Business

SASE is widely prevalent now, and most businesses have already implemented one or more of its components without even realizing it. That said, here’s how you fully implement it in your business in 4 simple steps:

1. Define the Scope

As a first step, define the scope of your SASE model and the components you want to leverage for your business’s needs. Do a reality check of your application and network structure to better define where the model fits in. Once you define the scope, move forward with implementation.

2. Create a Secure Authentication Mechanism

Start with ZTNA to provide secure authentication for cloud resources to your employees. This will streamline access and improve the end-user experience. Next, employ SWG and FWaaS to inspect and filter content at the edges instead of sending them to a centralized data server. 

3. Use a Cloud Wall for Branch Offices

If you have branch offices, put them behind a cloud wall for better security and improved connectivity with the head office. Next, look at ways to improve the security of your network, like deploying a cloud-native DDoS protection layer to prevent DDoS attacks in real-time. 

4. Apply Uniform Security Policies

Consider applying security policies that are fully consistent across the entire network. You should also move away from proprietary hardware to the cloud to manage every resource through SASE’s unified pane. 

As you implement a SASE architecture, you’ll likely encounter drivers and challenges within your business. I’ll briefly touch upon each of those, so you know what to look for.

SASE Adoption Drivers and Challenges 

Drivers and challenges are essential to every technology, and SASE is no different. Understanding them can help you to better leverage its capabilities. 

Drivers

The remote work culture is undoubtedly a big driver of SASE, as employees require secure and seamless access to cloud applications and data. Also, the dynamic and on-demand environment benefits from the scalability, flexibility, and agility offered by SASE.

Challenges

You have many challenges associated with SASE, such as disparate offerings and a nascent market. This is because it’s still a new and rapidly evolving technology. At present, SASE is best represented by the convergence of SD-WAN and security delivered as a cloud service. 

Nevertheless, many vendors do offer highly-capable SASE products. Let’s look at those next.

Top 4 SASE Products

Many companies today offer SASE as a complete solution and as individual components. However, these offerings are different from one another as they each have unique features. This is why I’ve come up with a list of the top SASE products available today. Let’s dive in.

1. GFI LanGuard

GFI LanGuard is an advanced network security scanner that helps you set up and maintain a secure infrastructure. 

Features

  • Provides in-depth visibility of your network
  • Offers a detailed risk analysis that you can use to fix any gaps in your network quickly
  • Automates patching
  • Ensures compliance with many industry standards such as ISO 27001 

Even though GFI LanGuard isn’t a comprehensive SASE solution, it handles many of the security and visibility components of a SASE system. 

2. VMware SASE

VMware offers a cloud-native SASE architecture that combines individual components such as SD-WAN, SWG, CASB, ZTNA, and more. 

Features

  • Works together component-wise to protect your infrastructure from internal and external threats
  • Provides stable and reliable access to your cloud resources
  • Is cloud-native and multi-tenant 
  • Unifies secure access

This solution works well for many use cases, especially when it comes to communicating with your branch offices. 

An image of a word cloud containing words that relate to cybersecurity.
Boost your security!
Source: madartzgraphics on Pixabay

3. Cato SASE

Cato SASE is a cloud-native service that specializes in optimizing WAN and cloud traffic in your network. 

Features

  • Comes with comprehensive security features to streamline access to critical resources 
  • Thwarts cyberattacks
  • Helps identify security gaps and fix them at the earliest using detailed analytics 
  • Improves overall network agility

Cato SASE is a good choice for businesses looking for comprehensive security solutions for the cloud. 

4. Zscaler SASE

Zscaler SASE is a platform for cloud and mobile networks and strives to protect them from cyberattacks. 

Features

  • Restricts access to authorized employees through its ZTNA component
  • Protects your networks from data leaks and attacks through its Internet Access module 
  • Enables a fast cloud app experience
  • Secures access to B2B apps

This solution is highly scalable and adds a comprehensive security layer to your cloud architecture. 

Here’s a quick comparison of the 4 products:

Screenshot of a table comparing 4 SASE products through several aspects and features.
You have lots of good options to choose from. Which one will it be?

Overall, these are some of the top products available today. Before we end, here’s a quick recap. 

The Bottom Line

To conclude, SASE is a framework designed for emerging dynamic networks. It combines a flexible architecture and its features as a cloud-delivered service to bring you a comprehensive IT package.

In this article, I educated you on what SASE is and how it works using its many components, such as SWG and FWaaS. SASE offers several benefits, including being highly secure, lowering costs in your business, and simplifying your architecture

I also covered some of its use cases. SASE provides remote employees access, can improve branch offices’ efficiency, and enables migration to the cloud. I then looked at an implementation strategy for SASE, which you can refer to at any time. 

Lastly, I analyzed some of its adoption drivers and challenges for you to consider and ended things off with a list of the best products available. SASE offers scalability, flexibility, and agility. However, you should be aware of the disparate offerings and nascent market. Consider your business needs when you make your choice.

Do you have more questions about SASE? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below!

FAQ

Is SASE the same as a VPN?

They’re not the same thing. A traditional VPN doesn’t handle security well, and you often need additional tools to beef up your security further. On the other hand, SASE delivers security and a global private network as a cloud service. 

Can SASE replace a traditional firewall?

It could, as SASE encompasses many products, one of which is Firewall as a Service (FWaaS). In essence, an FWaaS is a next-generation firewall that’s delivered as a cloud service. Also, SASE offers other advanced security features, which is a better replacement for a traditional firewall. 

Are SASE and SD-WAN the same thing?

No, SASE consists of several components, and one of them is SD-WAN. Also, SASE is more geared toward remote workers and includes comprehensive security and checking at various access points.

Should I go for SASE?

Indeed, you should, especially if you have a remote workforce that accesses many cloud applications. It comes with identity-based security that streamlines access to cloud resources for your remote workers.

What does SASE aim to solve?

SASE solves many problems that come with today’s complex digital environment. It aims to provide maximum efficiency and performance by leveraging advanced security practices. 

Resources

TechGenix: Article on Cybersecurity Strategies

Read about creating a good cybersecurity strategy for your business.

TechGenix: Article on Choosing an SD-WAN Provider

Learn how to choose an SD-WAN provider.

TechGenix: Article on the Top 5 Network Security Tools

Educate yourself on the top five network security tools.

TechGenix: Article on SASE

Explore another article on Secure Access Service Edge.

TechGenix: Article on the Top 4 SD-WAN Trends in 2022

Find out more information about the top 4 SD-WAN trends in 2022.

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