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Healthcare company pivots quickly to support remote workers

Security and performance concerns made it challenging for TrialCard to enable its employees to work from home when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Customer service agents use a voice-over-IP phone and thin-client computer, both of which were designed to work in an on-premises office environment. “They need those systems to do their day-to-day job,” says Ryan Van Dynhoven, director of infrastructure at TrialCard, a Morrisville, N.C.-based company that helps pharmaceutical manufacturers connect with patients, including providing patient support and clinical trial services.

To maintain sufficient voice quality over residential Internet connections and keep those interactions secure, TrialCard looked to deploy a new technology: secure access service edge. SASE, pronounced “sassy,” combines elements of SD-WAN and network security in a cloud-based service.

Research firm Gartner started talking about SASE last year, citing the need for greater scalability, flexibility, low latency, and pervasive security at the WAN edge than a legacy network and security architecture can provide. Services that might be wrapped into SASE include SD-WAN, secure web gateway (SWG), cloud access security broker (CASB), DNS protection, and cloud-based firewall.

“SASE offerings will provide policy-based ‘software defined’ secure access from an infinitely tailorable network fabric in which enterprise security professionals can precisely specify the level of performance, reliability, security, and cost of every network session based on identity and context,” Gartner wrote in its report introducing SASE.

With more SaaS applications in use and more employee traffic destined for cloud services, SASE takes a different approach than the legacy method of routing all traffic through the enterprise data center for inspection. Instead, access decisions are based on the identity of the entity that’s at the source of the connection – whether that’s a user, device, branch office, IoT device, edge-computing location, or a combination of these factors, according to Gartner. Security decisions are enforced at the endpoint while policies are defined and managed in the cloud.

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