Re-defining Digital User Experience with Zero Trust Network Access
Jul 17, 2023

Re-defining Digital User Experience with Zero Trust Network Access

Ramesh N G

Achieving excellence in enterprise networking hinges on prioritizing user experience (UX). This entails ensuring uninterrupted connectivity, streamlined access to resources, intuitive user interfaces, dependable performance, and effective troubleshooting and support. Organizations can optimize their interaction with network infrastructure and applications by thoroughly comprehending and addressing user needs and expectations. Thus, emphasizing UX is paramount for enterprises to attain superior networking experiences.

With the advent of hybrid work environments amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of zero-trust network access has witnessed a surge in popularity. The pandemic has led to a significant expansion of network attack surfaces, intensifying threats targeting end users. This trend has been further fueled by the proliferation of end-user devices such as IoT devices. According to Gartner's Strategic Roadmap for Edge (IoT) Networking, it is predicted that by 2025, more than 85% of enterprises will have a greater number of intelligent edge devices on their network than laptops, tablets, desktops, or smartphones. This underscores the criticality of robust security measures, micro-segmentation, and stringent access control in enterprise networks. However, the threat landscape continues to increase, with Gartner predicting that 60% of organizations will adopt Zero Trust as a security starting point by 2025. Still, over half the enterprises are yet to realize its benefits. On the other hand, organizations that invest at least 20% of their security budget in resilience and flexible design programs by 2026 will reduce total recovery time in half when faced with a powerful cyber-attack.

How does implementing the Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) approach impact user experience in terms of security enhancements?

The Relationship between Zero Trust and User Experience

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is an advanced security framework that enforces strict authentication and authorization protocols for both users and devices seeking access to network resources. This approach applies to every user and application within the network, regardless of the specific resource being accessed, whether it's an internal application or platform. By adhering to the Zero Trust principle, the ZTNA model provides a robust and highly secure environment for network access.

To implement ZTNA effectively, organizations must consider the specific solutions they choose to employ. These solutions may introduce different security mechanisms enforced at the endpoints, networks, or applications. For example, endpoint security measures, such as secure remote access clients, host-based firewalls, or endpoint protection software can be implemented to secure user machines. Network segmentation, identity-based authentication, or software-defined perimeters (SDPs) can be utilized to protect the network infrastructure. Similarly, application-level authentication, secure APIs, or firewalls can be deployed to safeguard the application layer. While these security mechanisms are in place, it is equally vital to configure them appropriately to ensure seamless user access to applications. Inadequately configured security controls can result in usability issues, excessive authentication challenges, or access restrictions that impede user productivity and experience. To address these concerns, the ZTNA approach emphasizes the reduction of disruptions and friction for users while upholding robust security measures. By striking a balance between usability and security, ZTNA aims to enhance the overall user experience while maintaining high protection.

To accomplish this, organizations can adopt user-friendly authentication methods like password-less authentication or biometrics, simplifying the login process and minimizing user friction. The access process can also be optimized by eliminating unnecessary authentication steps and simplifying authorization workflows. Organizations must balance security and user experience, enabling seamless access to applications while upholding robust security protocols. Moreover, prioritizing the performance of network applications is of utmost importance.

Neglecting UX during the ZTNA implementation and management can harm the overall user satisfaction and productivity. When UX is overlooked, users may encounter difficulties accessing the necessary resources, resulting in delays and complexities that hinder their ability to perform tasks efficiently.   To avoid these issues, it is essential to incorporate UX principles into ZTNA implementation. By doing so, organizations can ensure that stringent security measures do not impede user productivity and satisfaction. The goal is to balance robust security requirements and a seamless user experience, leading to improved engagement and an enhanced security posture.

When UX becomes a priority, users will find it easier to navigate and access the required resources, eliminating friction and frustration. Clear and intuitive authentication processes, simplified access workflows, and user-friendly interfaces contribute to a positive user experience. Consequently, organizations can promote user acceptance of security rollouts, increase compliance with security protocols, and enhance overall user satisfaction.

Integrating UX into ZTNA implementation also fosters a culture of security awareness and user cooperation. When security measures are seamlessly integrated into their workflows and align with their expectations, users are more likely to embrace and adhere to them. For instance, gathering constructive feedback on security mechanisms before implementing them is beneficial, rather than enforcing them. Many organizations have successfully tested security measures with a specific group of business users, gathering feedback before rolling it out across the organization. This reduces the risk of non-compliance or circumvention, reinforcing the security framework's effectiveness.

Some zero-trust deployments require significant security changes, such as enabling a security agent on users' laptops, implementing multi-factor authentication, or single sign-on. While these changes can be incorporated at the network level or pushed via a central policy management system, the users will directly experience the impact. If users are not aware of how to use the new security measures, it can negatively impact their productivity, resulting in significant time loss in resolving issues.

Furthermore, the implementation of Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) should take into account the impact on technical assistance centers and help desk personnel who may face an influx of requests, potentially affecting overall network operations. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize user experience (UX) in ZTNA implementation to ensure that security measures do not impede user productivity or satisfaction.

By finding the right equilibrium between security and user experience, organizations can enhance engagement, improve compliance, and cultivate a stronger security posture. Placing UX at the forefront of ZTNA implementation fosters a user-centric approach that bolsters both security and user satisfaction.

The Microland Advantage

Microland offers cutting-edge solutions like SmartBranch SD-WAN and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) that empower customers to establish robust Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) throughout their enterprise networks, irrespective of the application's location. Our solutions ensure secure connectivity whether the applications are accessed through SaaS, Public Cloud, or Private Cloud environments.

With SmartBranch SD-WAN, organizations can securely connect their branch offices and remote locations to applications and resources. This solution harnesses the power of Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) technology, facilitating efficient and secure connectivity across diverse networks. By implementing our solutions, customers can enforce Zero Trust principles for all user network traffic, regardless of the data's origin or destination.

Microland's SASE solution takes ZTNA capabilities to the next level by integrating network security and wide-area networking functionalities into a unified platform. This comprehensive approach ensures that users can securely access applications and data from any location, benefiting from the robust security measures inherent in a Zero Trust approach. With the deployment of Microland's SmartBranch SD-WAN and SASE solutions, customers can gain the confidence to implement ZTNA across their enterprise networks, regardless of where the applications are accessed from. These solutions provide the necessary flexibility, scalability, and security to enable seamless and protected connectivity, irrespective of the underlying infrastructure or deployment model, be it SaaS, Public Cloud, or Private Cloud.


 Microland's Intelligeni NetOps Platform  incorporates a powerful UX module that provides organizations with robust capabilities to measure, manage, and proactively detect issues related to user satisfaction, location dissatisfaction, end-user experience, and application performance indicators.

By leveraging the NAP UX module, organizations can effectively monitor and manage user experience while deploying zero-trust models in their networks. The NAP Analytics and User Experience Management solution offered by Microland is designed to provide customers with comprehensive visibility into service status, compliance, and user experience. This is achieved through extensive analytics and monitoring capabilities that gather data from various sources, including infrastructure and service management.

By aggregating and analyzing this data, organizations can gain valuable insights into their networks' and applications' performance and usability. Besides capturing technical metrics, the NAP solution encompasses non-technical factors that significantly impact user experience and satisfaction. This includes gathering user feedback and evaluating automation efficiency, which are crucial in evaluating the overall user experience. The solution also provides persona-based dashboards, offering convenient access to business-defined baselines and performance metrics. This empowers organizations to measure user experience against predefined targets and benchmarks, providing valuable insights into service quality and enabling continuous improvements.

The platform provides comprehensive experience visualization, enabling organizations to quickly identify trends and patterns. It includes historical performance dashboards for tracking and benchmarking performance over time and continuous experience improvement capabilities to make informed decisions that enhance user satisfaction. With geography-based experience insights, the NAP Platform allows organizations to understand and address variations in user experience across different locations or regions. This is particularly valuable for global organizations with distributed users that must ensure consistent and optimal user experience across diverse geographic areas. Furthermore, the platform offers eXperience Level Agreement (XLA) reporting, enabling organizations to monitor and report their performance against user experience targets and commitments.

With its UX module, Microland's Intelligeni NetOps Platform offers a comprehensive suite of capabilities to effectively monitor, manage, and optimize user experience in zero-trust network deployments. Enterprises can gain valuable insights, make data-driven decisions, and drive continuous improvement to deliver exceptional user satisfaction and maintain a competitive edge.

Unlock a Secure Future with Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)

Implementing Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and zero-trust model security across all infrastructure layers is crucial. However, it is equally important to measure and prioritize user experience. Taking a platform-first approach with an accelerated deployment and integrated UX management helps enterprises with a superior method to focus on business performance through precise insights into the user experience and not only user perception. By prioritizing UX, organizations can boost employee productivity, foster better collaboration, and drive positive business outcomes. Instead of solely relying on subjective user perceptions, a data-driven approach that focuses on the actual user experience allows organizations to gain valuable insights and make informed decisions.

This approach enables organizations to identify and address pain points, optimize workflows, and improve overall user satisfaction. Ultimately, investing in UX yields tangible benefits by enhancing employee engagement, enabling efficient utilization of resources, and driving positive business results.