We listen to our customers all the time, and what they have been telling us about cloud security over the past 18 months is intriguing. There was a time when IT security leaders were clearly uncomfortable about the idea of trusting remotely delivered security; discussions about cloud security would be met with skepticism. Over the last year and a half, this attitude has undergone a sea of change, and moved through increasing levels of interest to today, where our customers are actively leaning in and engaging in the discussion about moving security functions to the cloud. There are several reasons for this dramatic shift.

Overall, the enterprise network no longer sits comfortably within four secure walls. Extended networks and new business models related to mobility, cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Everything (IoE) are complicating network management and security for companies of all sizes. IT professionals are being tasked with supporting and protecting this ever-evolving environment with fewer resources. Hampered by tighter budgets and the IT security industry’s growing skills shortage customers need to work smarter, not harder.

Cloud-based solutions offer unique capabilities to help IT professionals overcome added complexity and resource constraints, and a growing number of organizations are recognizing this. The 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Secure Web Gateways, which positions Cisco as a leader, found that cloud-based services are growing more quickly than on-premises appliances.

Here are some specific reasons why IT and security professionals are choosing to solve their security challenges with Cisco Cloud Web Security (CWS) products, which offers comprehensive defense, advanced threat protection, and superior flexibility.

Flexible Deployment Models Enhance Performance and Protection

Cisco Cloud Web Security (CWS) products offer a flexible deployment model, largely removing the need to buy new hardware at the branch level to increase protection. Integrating directly with Cisco ASA firewalls, Integrated Services Routers (ISR), and the AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client, CWS leverages existing investments and operational support processes in a simplified way.

Traditional deployment models for web security gateways involve installing a centralized gateway in the head-office location and each branch or remote office which then forwards all traffic to the central aggregation point. This includes all inbound and outbound Internet traffic, consuming increasing amounts of the limited bandwidth to/from remote locations. This centralized gateway model provides a limited amount of policy enforcement at the branch-level to protect the network, meaning IT needs to backhaul the traffic directly to the central site for inspection.

Given the evolving threat landscape, Cisco has continued to enhance its leading web security protections by adding advanced threat defense capabilities into CWS via Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) and Cognitive Threat Analytics (CTA), leveraging the Cisco Talos Security Intelligence and Research Group capability to detect and analyze both known and emerging threats. These services are in addition to CWS looking for attacks using traditional malware signatures, as well as file and site reputation and outbreak filters within the product.

Scalability and Cost Savings

With the CWS solution, all processing for traffic management and control is offloaded from local hardware and moved to cloud-based systems. Leveraging the cloud for delivering policy-based decisions on traffic, the CWS solution significantly reduces the load on customers’ network hardware, and ensures that costs involved with updating, operating, and maintaining the software and hardware is not borne by their increasingly overworked IT staff. The easy scaling and optimized bandwidth capabilities offered by the CWS solution provides both a direct and quantifiable cost savings and dramatically improves the effectiveness of the solution. Cost savings are also available with flexible purchasing options that include seat-based and bandwidth-based pricing to allow customers to choose the path that makes the most sense.

Reporting and Manageability

CWS was built with a simple and intuitive management interface, specifically designed to make it easy for you to identify, analyze, and control your security policies. Our reporting offers in-depth visibility across all web traffic, threats, data, and applications, giving you complete oversight. With 70 pre-defined reports and 13 categories, you can see minute details about how people are really using the web. Cisco’s powerful tools help you analyze and control security operations, such as finding problematic users, discovering new malicious web sites, and updating policies to address new issues.
This is critical in bandwidth-constrained environments, such as retail branches in which Guest WiFi browsing habits create the need to have granular visibility and control over customer browsing behavior to enforce acceptable use policies and prevent the abuse of a free service. These operational abilities spread the utility of the CWS product well beyond the IT Security team to create additional value for the overall organization.

Through a combination of best-in-class uptime, unmatched zero-day threat protection, advanced malware protection, and cutting-edge analytics, CWS provides continuous monitoring and analysis across the extended network and throughout the full attack continuum: before, during, and after an attack.

In coming posts we’ll talk more about the advanced security capabilities and benefits of Cisco Cloud Web Security solutions.


Mark Bagley

Director, Product Management