How SASE is helping higher education institutions prepare for the future

March 15, 2024 Stephanie Billey 3 min


Leaders in higher education understand the importance of preparation and playing the long game in their IT strategy. They know the decisions they make today will have a profound impact on their ability to adapt and thrive in the coming years.

It makes sense, then, that Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is gaining momentum in the education sector. A recent study by Windstream Enterprise and Industry Dive found that 52% of education leaders are already implementing SASE as a way to future-proof their environment.

SASE sets the course for success in higher education

Digital ecosystems in higher education are constantly evolving to meet the demands of emerging technology like 5G, IoT, edge computing and AI. Such advancements are poised to reshape the way these organizations operate.

In an effort to adapt, colleges and universities are taking on significant digital transformation projects. The study by Windstream found that the top three most urgent digital initiatives include:

  • Advancing education technology and e-learning platforms (53%)
  • Facilitating interoperability and secure data sharing (50%)
  • Strengthening cybersecurity measures and data protection (48%)

As institutions evaluate current demands and priorities—and compare those requirements against common gaps in infrastructure—it’s clear that SASE is an essential way to future-proof their environments. For example, research respondents recognize the value of SASE for improved security (76%), better user experience (64%), higher network speed and performance (65%) and scalability (48%).

Connecting students, teachers and staff from any location

Offering remote and hybrid learning environments isn’t just convenient — it’s a growing competitive advantage in higher education. SASE aids this effort by supporting secure, seamless connectivity.

Higher education environments often span many buildings, multiple locations across cities and states, and a multitude of personal devices. SASE can accommodate their high-bandwidth requirements and facilitate secure network and application access to faculty, staff and students regardless of their location.

Securing data and infrastructure

Higher education is a prime target for ransomware and other attacks since schools collect an enormous amount of personal data. As cybersecurity threats continue to increase, attacks are also becoming more sophisticated.

It’s a complex issue that SASE succinctly solves. In particular, Secure Web Gateway (SWG), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS) and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) can help educational organizations stay ahead of evolving threats and safeguard their sensitive data and critical systems.

Gaining visibility with converged approach

Additionally, higher education IT departments strive to manage increasingly complex and fragmented systems. A recent report by Windstream, Meeting Modernization Goals with SASE, notes that by converging networking and security systems, organizations can simplify management and provide better visibility of network activity.

The report details one example, where a large U.S. college serving more than 6,000 students online and across five campuses relied on a legacy MPLS solution that couldn’t support the growing number of users and devices. Four major network outages occurred in a single year. The college combined high-availability SD-WAN managed services at each campus with Managed Network Security (MS) for added protection. Since the implementation, there hasn’t been a single outage. The network is also far easier to manage, allowing IT staff to run statistics, monitor performance, troubleshoot and mitigate issues from a single dashboard.

SASE proves effective with minimal disruption to operations

Higher education institutions often grapple with integrating new technologies without disrupting ongoing operations or stretching budgets. SASE offers a tailored solution ideally suited to their needs.

The ‘wrap and refresh’ approach of SASE ensures swift implementation without overhauling existing infrastructure. Its cloud-based operation eliminates the need for extensive on-premises hardware and seamlessly integrates with existing data infrastructure, accommodating legacy systems, cloud services, or hybrid environments without compatibility issues. This is crucial given that 67% of education executives say they need five or more applications for a complete view of operations.

Furthermore, when supported by IT managed services, SASE is a manageable approach even if institutions face knowledge or resource gaps. IT managed and professional services are highly valuable for modernization assessments, planning, management, skills development and beyond.

Higher education views SASE as a strategic long-term decision

SASE is not merely a short-term fix; it represents a strategic choice that positions higher education institutions for success in the coming decades. By embracing SASE, these organizations empower themselves to adopt emerging technologies, proactively mitigate cybersecurity threats, adapt to evolving work and learning environments, and optimize resources.

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Key Takeaway
Colleges, universities and technical schools need to be ready to adapt to fast-moving technology requirements. A future-proof SASE approach provides fast, reliable, secure network access for evolving working and learning needs.

Higher learning in a dynamic environment: Enabling new learning models with agile networks