April 5, 2019 BY futurefirewall
Healthcare organizations are balancing some hefty requirements on their network infrastructure. Increased adoption of cloud solutions has resulted in higher bandwidth demands, while data volume moving across the network has multiplied exponentially. Compliance regulations put an additional burden on the network as administrators work to both meet requirements and anticipate the types of threats that could lead to a breach. Many administrators are considering how software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) helps healthcare IT address these network demands.
In many healthcare organizations, the shortage of available IT resources further complicates network burdens. A network engineer may also be running a help desk for multiple locations, or the manual maintenance to the network may be so time-consuming that it’s pushed off for later resolution.
Meanwhile, the risk of downtime and interruptions creates a vulnerability that healthcare organizations can’t tolerate, not only in terms of the patient experience but also because it may impact life-or-death situations. A reliable network is critical for healthcare organizations.
Solving Network Challenges with SD-WAN: Across every industry, enterprises are investing in SD-WAN to address the complexity of their networks and improve reliability and security. SD-WAN adds a virtual layer to enable centralized network management, separating the control plane from the physical network.
SD-WAN is a hot topic, and IDC Research anticipates a 40% compound annual growth rate in the next five years. There are many benefits that SD-WAN brings to healthcare organizations, but the two main areas of focus for how SD-WAN helps healthcare are reliability and security.
Reliability Through SD-WAN
Healthcare IT teams often get into a mode of fighting network fires, because there’s little time for the updates and maintenance that networks require almost daily. Meanwhile, with so many having converted to cloud-based technologies accessed through virtual desktops, the impact of an outage is significant.
Increasing Pathway Availability: The high bandwidth demands of cloud solutions often result in organizations debating how to improve their network’s capacity. While the first consideration may be to add more multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) links, this is a costly fix because it requires laying cables. The ongoing cost of MPLS is also high.
SD-WAN provides a way to decrease MPLS use, and reduce network costs, by providing access to a variety of connectivity pathways. Mission-critical traffic can be directed to the highly reliable but more costly MPLS pathways, while less critical data can be routed through a broadband pathway. The flexible approach results in more bandwidth at an affordable cost point.
Automatic Failover: This model offers multiple pathways and also builds in failover for the network. In a traditional network setting, an outage for the Internet service provider (ISP) meant the healthcare organization was down, too. In an SD-WAN infrastructure, the device can automatically route traffic to the next best pathway if there’s a problem with the primary selection.
SD-WAN also applies this feature to congestion, jitter, and latency, redirecting traffic and balancing loads for uninterrupted reliability.
Streamlined Management: The network is more reliable with SD-WAN because network teams access a centralized management dashboard for granular visibility into the network and zero-touch provisioning. Instead of traveling to branch locations to set up their network connectivity, an administrator can handle all of these functions from the main office.
SD-WAN allows network teams to identify and address performance issues through the dashboard and extensive reporting options, making it possible to increase the reliability of the network and even optimize performance for specific applications and systems across the network.
Security is vital for any enterprise, but the stakes are higher when it comes to a healthcare IT organization. Protecting patient data is critical both at the personal level and in terms of compliance with healthcare regulations. The following steps will help maximize the capabilities for how SD-WAN helps healthcare security teams protect data and systems:
Encrypted Transport: As an alternative to the secure but costly MPLS, SD-WAN offers healthcare organizations the ability to use low-cost broadband with all traffic encrypted, end-to-end. SD-WAN provides better security than an MPLS line because even if the carrier network is compromised, the encryption protects the data in the network.
Secure Connectivity to the Cloud: It doesn’t matter how secure the cloud provider is, because the healthcare enterprise is still responsible for the data and its transport. The good news is that SD-WAN allows you to steer your Internet traffic according to compliance mandates through secure gateways, with next-generation firewalls at each branch location. This approach mitigates the risks associated with cloud solutions.
Branch Security: Some SD-WAN solutions provide for better branch security through virtual private networks (VPNs), firewalls, and the utilization of network functions virtualization (NFV), making it easier and more secure to deploy services at each location.
Segmentation: As discussed above in terms of reliability, traffic segmentation also improves the security of the network. SD-WAN provides the ability to separate patient information from other network pathways, making it easier to comply with the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act (HIPAA) in a distributed network environment.
If your organization is considering how SD-WAN helps healthcare organizations improve reliability and security, contact us at SimpleWAN. In a growing market crowded with SD-WAN options, we can help you leverage the right solution to meet your network requirements. From addressing your security goals to ensuring that teams can access systems without interruption, SD-WAN solves many healthcare network challenges.