Why are professional services firms turning to secure web gateways?

By Tim Ryan, Senior Product Manager, Virgin Media Business

I’ve spoken a lot about zero trust in recent months. And with good reason. 

It looks like hybrid working is here to stay (85% of UK remote workers want a mix of home and office, according to government figures). 

If you’re not adopting a zero trust approach to cybersecurity, you’re not going to be able to make hybrid working happen without losing sleep over sensitive data. At least not in a way that gives your staff and customers the best possible experience. 

Secure web gateways are integral to the zero trust approach, and professional services firms in particular have been adopting this technology more than ever.

What is a secure web gateway?

Gartner defines it as ‘a solution that filters unwanted software/malware from user-initiated web/internet traffic and enforces corporate and regulatory policy compliance.’

Not the easiest sentence to remember, perhaps, but in essence a secure web gateway does what it says on the tin. It acts as the guardian between your web-based apps and your network, blocking out any unwanted traffic. 

That could include anything from URL filtering to malicious code detection or application controls for web-based apps like Skype or Zoom. 

It’s not enough on its own, of course, but it does form part of the overarching zero trust approach I mentioned above. 

Why are professional services firms adopting them?

Since the pandemic forced many companies to rethink the way they work and therefore the way they protect their data, secure web gateways have become more than just a nice-to-have – they’re now essential for modern-day work and business.

Financial services firms, for example, are rapidly moving their workloads to the cloud to make apps and data readily available for staff wherever they are. 

But this is putting massive pressure on their networks, of course. To overcome this, they’re looking for modern networking solutions that can adapt to changing bandwidth and performance demands. Ones that are easy to deploy without putting their sensitive data at risk. 

Secure web gateways have played a massive role in that, allowing financial services firms to roll out new web-based apps to their staff quicker than they otherwise could have. 

This technology has become prevalent in many legal firms as well since the explosion in remote working (and the more recent trend towards permanent hybrid working policies).

The above has required a huge number of new web-based apps that simply weren’t commonly used by law firms before: large-scale cloud-based data migration and the ability to instantly access that data, for example, or the use of virtual desktop infrastructure to help staff access sensitive client records on their mobile devices. 

Even tools for video conferencing have become more sophisticated in many cases, along with a number of different web-based collaboration tools. 

While these innovations are helping legal firms outgrow old ways of working and meet modern-day, tech-savvy consumer expectations, integrating and running them efficiently and cost-effectively requires a modern, efficient network – one that has secure web gateway technology built in. 

What are the benefits?

There are so many examples to choose from when it comes to the benefits of a secure web gateway for professional services firms. But I’ll focus on one example in particular. 

In our recent report, How digital change is leading Britain’s professional services firms out of the Covid crisis, we spoke to leading UK legal and professional services experts Knights.

The firms Chief Operating Officer Richard King said, “We’ve also embraced technology to make our ways of working dramatically more efficient and faster. 

“In the traditional legal world, to get a document printed you take notes, give it to a secretary to type up, then read and edit it before you arrive at a final copy. 

“We made the conscious decision to not employ secretaries, but rather to empower our lawyers to do this themselves through the use of our technology systems.”

And the ultimate impact of this, according to Richard?

“The industry average number of fee earners per support staff is 1.7:1 and currently we’re operating at 4.2:1.”

We can’t attribute those stats to secure web gateway technology alone, of course, but without a modern, zero trust networking approach (of which secure web gateway is part) this kind of rapid change would simply not have been possible. 

Want to know more about secure web gateway and how it plays into a zero trust approach?

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