Striking a Balance: Centralized vs. Decentralized Security in Enterprises

As enterprises scale and establish operations in new markets, their technology stack and network complexity inevitably grows. So, it is no surprise that a significant number of enterprises now rely on managed service providers (MSPs) and other technology partners to deploy and manage their global networks [1]. According to NTT’s 2021-22 research, the number of companies using third parties to manage more than half of their IT needs has doubled, up to 50 percent in 2022. This is particularly noticeable in the manufacturing and mining industries which face unique challenges such as geographical dispersion of operations in hard-to-reach locations, compliance with regional regulations, and a magnitude number of devices and applications.

This growing demand for MSPs without question will continue to grow, as enterprises network complexity will not only persist but will also exert a direct influence on the effectiveness and number of security strategies, placing more strain on IT teams than ever before.

How can enterprises navigate network complexity without compromising security?

There are two main approaches to security for enterprises to consider: centralized and decentralized. A centralized strategy to security advocates for controlling all critical cybersecurity operations from one central point. It promotes consistency in applying security protocols, efficient threat detection, swift response times, and a unified view of the enterprise’s security posture. It is certainly advantageous. Consider each business unit with common standards, providing a predictable, secure path for application access. This not only mitigates risk but also curtails potential errors and inconsistencies, reducing vulnerabilities.

However, in the present business landscape, agility is paramount. Could a centralized strategy to security inadvertently impede businesses? The answer is not so straightforward and varies depending on industry. For instance, while some industries can centralize almost all security functions, the manufacturing sector requires complex, edge-based security functions like OT segmentation which provides the perfect use case for decentralization.

Crafting an agile security strategy tailored to your needs

Overall, it increasingly makes sense for enterprises to have a centralized security strategy, but enterprises shouldn’t disregard decentralizing security functions to create a hybrid outcome. Why?  Decentralized security functions offer three key advantages for global enterprises: resilience against network failures, reduced bureaucratic delays, and customizable data settings. Coupled with a centralized strategy it creates a hybrid outcome that balances control and flexibility. This strategy allows for standardized protocols and efficient threat detection while also enabling localized control and customization. However, this approach has its own challenges too. Striking the right balance between centralization and decentralization can be complex, requiring a nuanced understanding of the business’s unique needs and risk profile; managing this dual system can potentially increase operational complexity. Despite these hurdles, with strategic planning and the support of an experienced technology partner, a hybrid security model can provide a robust and flexible defense framework.

There are several industries who stand to benefit significantly from a hybrid approach to security, which blends centralized and decentralized models. The technology sector, for instance, is one such industry. With their vast, complex networks spread across multiple locations globally, tech companies need a centralized structure for standardizing protocols and efficient threat detection. Simultaneously, they require a degree of decentralization to allow for localized control and customization [2].

Further, any industry transitioning towards a hybrid work model, such as remote and on-site work, would benefit from this approach [3]. With employees accessing systems from various locations and networks, centralized security measures can ensure uniformity. Meanwhile, decentralization allows for adaptability to unique local conditions and threats.

The caveat here is that implementing a hybrid security model is not without its challenges. Balancing centralization and decentralization requires a nuanced understanding of an organization’s unique needs and risk profile [4]. But with strategic planning and execution, it can provide a robust and flexible defense framework, enhancing overall business resilience.

Centralized or Decentralized: Not an either-or debate

For organizations with globally deployed networks, security doesn’t have to be a debate between centralized versus decentralized. The focus, instead, needs to be on ways to strike a balance between the two to get visibility and consistency with a centralized approach, and agility and control with a decentralized approach. Regardless of how security strategies are approached, regularly gauging the knowledge and awareness of security issues across the enterprise is key [5]. Implementing pre-emptive measures and having incident response playbooks in place and continuing to build a culture of security are just as important as ever [6].

In summary, as businesses expand internationally, they face increasing network complexity and security challenges. To navigate these issues, enterprises should adopt a hybrid security strategy that blends centralized and decentralized models. While a centralized approach ensures consistency in security protocols and efficient threat detection, a decentralized model offers adaptability to unique local conditions and threats. Striking a balance between the two can provide visibility, agility, and control, but requires strategic planning and the support of an experienced technology partner.  To find out more about how Coevolve can help you in your network journey, contact us today.