What is Secure Digital Transformation?
The definition of secure digital transformation depends a lot on who you ask. CIO Magazine defines digital transformation as a necessary disruption—one that fundamentally changes how organizations deliver value to their customers. More specifically, it’s viewed as the use of modern (digital) technologies and processes to empower organizations to operate more efficiently, intelligently, and rapidly.
Most people agree about the role that cloud and mobile technologies play in digital transformation, but when you add in the word “secure,” there is little consensus about how to do it. Security vendors that have built their offerings on the use of firewalls, and those that have created point products that comprise the gateway security stack, have had to adapt to the modern landscape in which hardware anchored in the data center, and security tied to a trusted network, have little relevance.
In a 2019 research report, Gartner defined a model for supporting the changing secure access needs of the digital enterprise. They called it the secure access service edge, or SASE, and it’s described as a way to securely connect entities such as users and machines to applications and services when their locations may be anywhere. We believe that the SASE model is the correct approach for enabling secure digital transformation.
What has made secure digital transformation a priority?
There are multiple trends that have made digital transformation possible—and absolutely necessary. The first is, of course, the cloud. Applications are moving out of the data center on the enterprise’s trusted network and out to various clouds. Microsoft 365 and Workday are just two of the most popular software-as-a-service applications, which take the management of the apps off of IT’s shoulders, while enabling capabilities that make organizations smarter and more collaborative. Many organizations are also moving their private applications to cloud services, such as Azure, AWS, GCP, and others, which eliminates a lot of IT complexity, because the cloud providers manage all the infrastructure.
Enterprise employees are now working from everywhere on a range of devices. Long gone are the days when each employee worked in a cubicle on a PC that was connected, via Ethernet, to the local network. They are now connecting to applications over public Wi-Fi or their home networks, and they’re using personally owned devices (BYOD), including laptops, smartphones, and tablets. This trend will not slow down with the onset of 5G networks. Gartner predicted that there would be 221 million 5G phones sold in 2020. If employees can access apps and data over 5G, at speeds of up to 10 Gbps, why would they connect to the office network operating at a fraction of that speed?
In addition, there are many types of devices connecting to applications and services—IoT devices, operational technology (OT), servers that automate a range of processes on the production line, provide visibility into application use and performance, speed the exchange of data between applications, and much more, all of which creates efficiencies and helps the organization become more agile.
With all of these connections taking place between multiple entities in various locations, the data center that was once the center of the universe has become merely a destination, just like the clouds that house your apps and data. And connecting it all is no longer your hub-and-spoke network—it’s simply the internet.
The benefits of secure digital transformation
Organizations generally begin a transformation journey with the ultimate goal of becoming more competitive by moving faster and more intelligently. But there are many benefits brought about by transformation that enable such outcomes. They include an increase in productivity though the elimination of slow backhauls through data centers and latency-causing security controls. Transformation reduces costs and simplifies IT by eliminating infrastructure and point products while also reducing reliance on costly private networks. And it reduces business risk with protections against sophisticated threats, such as ransomware and DDoS, and the prevention of data loss and compliance violations.
When do you know it’s time to transform?
If the following points have become the reality in your organization, you are probably already well on your way to becoming a digital enterprise.
- More user traffic is heading to cloud services than data centers
- More work is performed off the network than on it
- More workloads are running in clouds than data centers
- More SaaS applications are in use than those hosted locally
- More sensitive data is housed in cloud services than inside the enterprise network
The journey typically begins with the transformation of applications from on-premises to cloud-delivered. But with the majority of user traffic now going to the cloud and open internet, the network must transform to enable direct-to-internet connections. And these connections require security transformation, which moves security controls from centralized gateways and regional hubs to the cloud, where policies can be enforced consistently no matter where users connect.
The Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange is the foundation for application, network, and security transformation. Zero Trust Exchange is a cloud-native platform that enables fast, secure connections between users and applications, regardless of where the user connects or where the application is hosted. It also secures the connections between applications in multiple cloud environments and machine-to-machine connections between operational technology (OT) systems on the production line, IoT devices, and servers.
Zscaler is dedicated to helping its enterprise customers around the world on their secure digital transformation journeys by securely connecting all their users, devices, and applications using business policies over any network.