Cybersecurity breaches are a major threat to every business and can quickly lead to network downtime. In fact, a standard breach costs an average of $3.5 million (IBM). However, if a large organization is unprepared, this cost could skyrocket, as was the case for one firm last year, which lost an estimated $51 million after halting operations due to a breach.
There is no sign that threats will slow down in the future, either, as network devices and ecosystems continue to become more connected and complex. SD-WAN, for example, introduces a slew of benefits, but can present new challenges like blind spots throughout a network, and the possibility of an overlay going down in a vulnerable location like a last mile connection. Additionally, when software stack deployments call for more frequent updates, they become more susceptible to exploits, bugs and cyberattacks.
Along with the threat of a breach – whether it’s to an organization’s own data center, cloud or hybrid environment – costly downtime can also result from a plethora of other security-related issues as well, such as a comprised ISP carrier losing service, power cuts to an edge location or simple human error.
So how can this costly downtime be prevented? Perhaps the most direct and efficient way is to implement end-to-end network resilience that can ensure 100 percent uptime, enabling an organization to continue normal operations soon or immediately after a network breach has occurred.
Resilience vs. Redundancy
Though resilience and redundancy are terms that are often interchanged with one another, it’s crucial for any organization looking to minimize the impact of potential cybersecurity breaches to understand the difference between the two. Redundancy means installing additional network devices, utilities and equipment within a network infrastructure. This could include items like extra switches and routers or alternate cooling circuits and back-up generators that can keep the network running if one path in the primary network fails. While this is useful, it does not prepare an organization if any piece of equipment besides the redundant elements remains down.
If a malicious actor cuts through a cable or compromises an entire system, for instance, the network may go down, and just adding duplicate equipment will not bring the network back online. This is where end-to-end resilience is paramount. Resilience refers to the ability to recover quickly and resume normal operations if a network outage occurs.
A large part of ensuring network resilience is having the ability to immediately discover when a problem has occurred. One of the top challenges many organizations today struggle with is the ability to quickly identify and remediate issues.
For instance, a large organization may have a network operations center with many satellite offices around the world. Due to the size of the enterprise, it may struggle at detecting an outage because there was no system in place to proactively notify leadership when something crashes or goes offline. Even if leadership is alerted, it still may be challenging to determine which piece of equipment faltered and at which location the issue occurred, especially if there are no on-site personnel to physically observe an area 24/7.
This scenario is at the core of the paradigm shift taking place today. Organizations must adopt a solution for true network resilience, which goes far beyond compensating for a single piece of equipment and instead benefits every piece of equipment, at any edge site or data center, mapping and communicating what is offline and online at any moment.
With true network resilience in place, however, an organization is equipped to quickly recover from an outage. For example, an organization may need to access an image of the core equipment to quickly restore a network device remotely. This can be achieved with a system that enables smart out-of-band (OOB) management and failover to cellular. With these capabilities, business continuity is ensured via the backup cellular network.
Many companies have opted not to implement resilience via smart OOB management and other tools due to costs, knowing that they may use this alternate access pathway infrequently. But when the need arises, these features are absolutely mission critical. It’s one of the truest cases of “better to have and not need, than need and not have.” Additionally, ensuring resilience is significantly more cost effective than investing in vast amounts of redundant equipment. This will become increasingly true as industry advances continually increase edge deployments, with countless data closets and racks in small remote locations.
5G, Moving to the Edge and What This Means for Network Resilience
With applications in consumer, commercial, industrial, infrastructural and military sectors, IoT is on the rise with some forecasts predicting the industry will be valued at over $1 trillion dollars by 2026 (Fortune Business Insights). By providing higher capacity, more bandwidth and much lower latency than previous cellular technologies, 5G will be a strong enabler in this growing trend.
To support the increasing amount of IoT devices, enterprises will move towards edge computing, which promises faster delivery speed, reduced cost and enhanced scalability. This will enable organizations to process and prioritize data closer to the collection point, which will be especially useful for applications like autonomous vehicles and other functions that require lightning response times.
In this process, 5G may be used in some instances like last mile connections, where investing in the costly infrastructure to support 5G will provide enough ROI; however, it is also important to note that for network management, LTE networks will most likely remain more feasible for the foreseeable future. This is because network management does not require large amounts of user data. Therefore, LTE may work as an affordable backup line for the management plane as 5G adoption increases.
Though the edge will create a more dispersed networking ecosystem, users will expect the same response and uptime levels from their network, regardless of where compute modules are located. And while having a rapid-speed network will be important, ensuring that the network is secure and highly resilient will be equally vital.
Ensuring 5G is secure will require many remote locations that are locked down from easy access. Cell sites will therefore need to be more physically secure, as they will soon form a major infrastructural component to smart cities. Enhanced device verification and data encryption will also become critical to ensure blind or vulnerable spots are not exploited.
Networks will also need to rely on a level of self-healing through a combination of equipment redundancy, AI tools and cell coverage overlap. This is where solutions like smart OOB management and other network resilience tools will be critical to ensure downtime is mitigated as much as possible and provisioning is always available to remote locations that may be locked down.
Resilience to Future-Proof the Enterprise
It’s important to remember that cyberattackers will always seek to breach the data plane, attempting to access sensitive information or otherwise do harm to an organization’s operations. With this being the case, most attacks will originate from areas in the production network exposed to users of a network, employees and the public Internet. Therefore, those who use smart OOB to implement a separate network for the management plane can detect and remediate issues distant from where attacks are taking place.
This extends to the industry’s expansion to the edge. If network management is only reliant on the production network to reach the edge, management is compromised as soon as the production network is. To ensure management is resilient to a breach, it’s important to have a failover platform, like smart OOB, with independent self-healing connectivity between core and edge. This will enable businesses facing cyber threats to become much more confident in their ability to detect, react and neutralize security breaches.
Beyond preparing an organization to quickly recover from a breach – by integrating a highly reliable failover plan with tools like smart OOB management and failover to cellular – organizations can provide further fortification and improve revenues by stacking tools like NetOps automation on top of solutions for secure, offsite provisioning. This can eliminate a lot of repetitive tasks, remove potential for human error and free up time.
Prepare With an End-to-End Approach
In enterprise environments, moves toward edge computing will offer benefits in terms of faster delivery speed, better scalability and an improved total cost of ownership for the network. This and other improvements make networks more complex at a time when hackers are also becoming increasingly sophisticated and customers have no tolerance for downtime or an IT team’s inability to act quickly and secure sensitive data.
Security breaches are a problem that every business must deal with. Though it is challenging to entirely eliminate downtime, smart tools like OOB management, failover to cellular and NetOps automation can help by providing mission critical capabilities like continued Internet connectivity if the primary production network goes offline or efficient remote monitoring and management.
A network serves as a core backbone technology for any enterprise that customers must depend on and trust. As such, resilience cannot be ignored and going beyond redundancy to implement the right systems and processes is essential. This helps ensure a business can mitigate and survive the impacts of an outage, even if critical systems are brought offline.
Resilience isn’t just adding in extra equipment. It requires a solution and methodology that accounts for all parts of an IT ecosystem at all times, whether your considering equipment at the edge, a data center, a cloud or a colocation center. Therefore, to achieve true end-to-end network resilience, organizations need to assume the worst and plan for how they can quickly pivot, react and save their business.