The Benefits of Zero Trust Security to Small and Medium Enterprises

Written by Kate Lake on February 22, 2022

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Zero Trust security is a modern approach to security that addresses the dissipation of the traditional security “perimeter.” The perimeter-based “castle and moat” security approach has decreased in effectiveness as SaaS and cloud-based environments become business standard.

Now, Zero Trust security is transitioning from being a “nice to have” to a necessity for businesses of all sizes. And while security is often written off as a problem for large enterprises, Zero Trust is now just as necessary for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Fortunately, Zero Trust presents many benefits to SMEs. And while the road to achieving full Zero Trust is long, even partial Zero Trust environments help SMEs improve their security and gain advantage in several other areas. This blog will delineate those advantages, starting with the most critical: reliable security in the modern workplace.

Reliable Security in a Modern Work Environment

Security Is Everyone’s Problem

The idea that large enterprises are the only businesses that need to worry about security is a myth. Cybercrime trends follow similar patterns in small and large businesses alike, and attacks are on the rise.

Cybercrime skyrocketed in 2020 as cybercriminals took advantage of newly created and vulnerable remote environments. Today, bad actors continue to exploit gaps in companies’ remote and hybrid infrastructure, and cybercrime continues to rise

Now that the average SME has 30% of employees working remotely and 32.5% working hybrid-remotely, SMEs’ security programs need to support remote and hybrid setups.

In fact, SME IT professionals ranked “adding layered security so work-from-anywhere is truly secure” as their top priority for both 2021 and 2022, and over 80% agreed that remote and hybrid-remote work increased their focus on security. SMEs need security that can account for these work-from-anywhere environments, and the traditional perimeter method falls short.

Why Perimeter Security Falls Short

Traditional perimeter security fails modern environments on two main accounts: first, it tries to apply the idea of a physical perimeter to a perimeterless environment. Cloud-based environments don’t have central on-prem infrastructure to protect; thus, the idea of a perimeter becomes irrelevant. 

Second, perimeter security places all of its safeguards at the initial access transaction (i.e., the perimeter), and trusts these safeguards so fully that it assumes that anyone inside the perimeter is trustworthy.

While a desirable ideal, this has proved unrealistic; cybercriminals are now so fast and sophisticated that security experts say attacks are inevitable: plan for when, not if they occur. 

How Zero Trust Provides Better Security

Zero Trust security emerged as a response to the perimeter method’s shortcomings; it was designed to protect modern cloud environments. 

To start, it prescribes secure authentication everywhere: multi-factor authentication (MFA) instead of a simple password login. This makes access exponentially more secure than the traditional password model. It also requires principle of least privilege (PLP) enforcement and secure authentication at every transaction instead of just at the “perimeter,” which immediately improves login security and prevents lateral movement in case of a breach.

In addition, Zero Trust architectures and the solutions that support them generally provide better visibility and control in cloud-based environments to improve threat detection and mitigation. 

Overall, Zero Trust provides SMEs the best defense against cybercrime and a sustainable security foundation for long-term remote and hybrid work. 

Future-Proof Technology

Legacy equipment has always been somewhat change-averse: any changes are rooted in physical equipment, making them expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to implement. By contrast, Zero Trust’s departure from physical infrastructure makes Zero Trust architectures more malleable and adaptable than traditional perimeter-based security and, therefore, better suited to adapt to future changes. 

The ability to embrace change is particularly important to the SME, which needs to remain nimble and adaptable amidst frequent organizational and market changes.  

Better Usability

Zero Trust security frameworks are designed to accommodate cloud resources, which have evolved to be more user-friendly than their legacy counterparts. As such, Zero Trust implementations tend to be similarly cloud-based and user-friendly. 

From reducing the user’s need to remember and input passwords to automating onboarding and offboarding, Zero Trust implementations tend to improve the employee experience. Zero Trust environments use integration, automation, and a single source of truth, which in turn offer users consistent, intuitive, and seamless experiences. 

User buy-in is a critical component of a Zero Trust implementation, and the employee experience is becoming a differentiator for employers. Improving the user experience helps SMEs promote Zero Trust buy-in and keep employees satisfied.

Improved Admin Experience

In addition to improving the user experience, Zero Trust security also provides a better experience for IT admins. Zero Trust prescribes software-driven architecture that improves visibility and streamlines management (especially in hybrid and remote environments).

This relieves some of IT’s burden, simplifies security administration, and improves IT admins’ ability to detect and address issues before they become breaches. 

Streamlining the IT admin’s experience heightens security while creating an environment that fosters smooth organizational changes, scaling, and IT maintenance. In SMEs where IT departments may be strained, this saved time can be reallocated to make a significant impact in other IT initiatives without compromising on security. It’s also a major contributor to buy-in among IT teams, which is just as critical as user buy-in for getting your Zero Trust program to take hold.

Market Differentiator

Vendor security is moving up in priority for customers. As data privacy falls under increasing scrutiny, businesses and individual consumers alike want to ensure their data remains secure in a third party’s hands. When shopping for vendors, therefore, security can be a significant differentiator. 

If your competitors haven’t implemented Zero Trust yet (and they likely haven’t: only 23% of SMEs have fully implemented Zero Trust so far), citing Zero Trust practices can be a significant differentiator for your organization.

If your competitors do follow Zero Trust practices, you’re behind if you can’t follow suit. Shoring up your security and including your Zero Trust practices in your messaging can keep your business competitive. 

Demystifying Zero Trust

Zero Trust security has risen in popularity over the last few years as it becomes necessary to defend modern work-from-anywhere environments. However, its prevalence in the market has led to some misuse of the term and misconceptions around what Zero Trust is (and what it isn’t). This confusion can make for a difficult Zero Trust journey, especially for SMEs, who are likely working with small IT teams and constrained budgets.

The first step to achieving Zero Trust is understanding what it is and what you’ll need to do to get there. JumpCloud’s whitepaper, Zero Trust Demystified, is designed to clarify misconceptions and cut through the noise with clear, actionable guidelines for SMEs looking to get started with Zero Trust, no matter where they stand. Download the Zero Trust Demystified whitepaper to start making progress on your Zero Trust implementation quickly, strategically, and effectively.  

Kate Lake

Kate Lake is a Senior Content Writer at JumpCloud, where she writes about JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform and trends in IT, technology, and security. She holds a Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and is driven by a lifelong passion for writing and learning. When she isn't writing for JumpCloud, Kate can be found traveling, exploring the outdoors, or quoting a sci-fi movie (often all at once).

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