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Branch networking includes the tools and strategies needed to send information to and between remote locations, branch offices, data centers, and stores. Branch networking is an essential element of the IT infrastructures of schools, retail, and restaurant chains, and many companies with multiple offices in different locations or spread out across a central campus.

What Is a Branch Network: Branch Office Networks and Related Terms

Branch office networks involve the networking infrastructure for each branch office as well as the network security designed to protect each individual office and the network as a whole.

What Is a Branch Office?

Branch offices are satellite entities that work as parts of a larger organization. Often, they support or run under the management of a central headquarters, as is the case with larger enterprises, banks, or governmental organizations.

What Is Network Security for a Branch Office?

Network security for a branch office involves securing the data and communications that have to be passed between the branch locations, headquarters, data centers, customers, and other businesses. This also involves ensuring remote workers and their connections are safe from cyberattacks and other security threats.

Essential Elements for Securing Branch Office Networks

Branch networks, to be secure, need infrastructure that establishes transparency, secures corporate resources, provides secure internet and cloud applications, mitigates zero-day threats, and prevents users from circumventing the system. These are necessary considerations whether you are piecing together a security solution or using a "branch in a box" approach, which involves combining several security functions within one physical device.

Establishing Transparency

Transparency or visibility in a branch networking security environment is an essential element of mitigating the risks to the system. With full visibility into those who connect to the network and their devices, you can detect potentially malicious behavior, as well as control access credentials, reducing your attack vectors.

Securing Corporate Resources

The digital resources of a corporation include proprietary data, customer data, the dependencies and infrastructures that support their custom applications, and the systems used to manage critical elements of their operations. Securing these resources falls under the purview of branch network security administrators, whether the setup involves on-premises, cloud-based resources, or a combination of both.

Provide Secure Internet and Cloud Applications

In some branch networking setups, such as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) and SD-branch setups, cloud applications are a central part of the infrastructure, making their security a top priority.

Mitigate Zero-day Threats

Zero-day threats are those that are novel to your organization’s threat landscape and therefore have not been studied and accounted for in cybersecurity hardware and software solutions. Because branch offices introduce a relatively wide range of threats due to their disparate locations and connections, zero-day threat mitigation is essential.

Prevent User Circumvention

Each branch office may welcome dozens or hundreds of new people every year, allowing them to connect to the network. This increases the likelihood of attacks. To counteract the resulting potential threats, it is essential to prevent user circumvention of security tools and protocols. This can be done using restrictive access controls, as well as enhanced visibility and monitoring capabilities.

Challenges in Implementing Secure Branch Networking

Branch networking comes with several challenges, including the growing demands of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, an increased number of threats, and changing traffic flows.

Growing IoT Demands

The number of IoT devices is growing as they become an integral thread in the fabric of business and personal technology. These devices often have to access branch office networks. Because they may not have adequate security controls, they can present harmful vulnerabilities. IoT devices can also consume bandwidth, weakening the performance of the network as a whole.

Increased Branch Security Threats

Hackers are increasingly using branch offices to circumvent the security features that protect headquarters. As a result, 30% of attacks penetrate the networks of companies using branch locations.

Rapidly Changing Traffic Flow

Traffic for sending and receiving enterprise data used to be handled primarily by wide-area networks (WANs), but that has been changing. Much of that data is now flowing over the internet, making it harder to keep secure.

Branch Office Network Solutions

Branch office networking solutions need to leverage software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and clearly define the SASE framework for cloud-delivered security features.

Define the SD-WAN and Its Benefits for Deploying Branch Network Security

With an SD-branch or SD-WAN solution, it is important to take advantage of the agility and control that comes with SD-WAN technology. This will involve defining the SD-WAN environment in detail, connecting disparate branches, as well as the subnets and local-area networks (LANs) to the solution. 

This can, in effect, keep everything under one umbrella and make it easier to deploy security and other networking solutions across the SD-WAN.

Define the SASE and Its Benefits for Deploying Branch Network Security

SASE combines several services, such as cloud access security brokers (CASBs), Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS), and zero-trust architecture into one cloud-native solution. SASE makes it easier to provide consistent protection across several branch locations.

How Fortinet Can Help

Entry-level FortiGate branch office firewalls come with SD-WAN, which automatically distributes your traffic while protecting you from a variety of known and zero-day threats. You can use FortiGate branch network firewalls to connect to the internet, making the use of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions safer for anyone connecting through your firewall.

This both ensures safer connections and more efficient management of network traffic. Meaning, you get the most out of the internet service you subscribe to now while simultaneously improving your security. Deploying FortiGate firewalls at each branch office is a straightforward way to achieve comprehensive cybersecurity across your entire company.

FAQs

What is a branch office in networking?

Branch offices are satellite entities that work as parts of a larger organization. Often, they support or run under the management of a central headquarters, as is the case with larger enterprises, banks, or governmental organizations.

What is branch security?

Network security for a branch office involves securing the data and communications that have to be passed between the branch locations, headquarters, data centers, customers, and other businesses.

What is a branch firewall?

A branch firewall is one that filters web traffic coming both in and out of the branch office. It can also be used to connect several branch offices together using a virtual private network (VPN) and SD-WAN.

Who needs SD-WAN?

Any business that has multiple locations and wants to optimize how traffic is managed needs SD-WAN.