Network Gatekeeper in the Cloud

The need for secure remote connections is greater than ever. For a company like Sinch with operations in 47 countries, this means a number of challenges. The solution is found in a collection of products and services from Cisco, which in simple terms provide VPN connections for the entire company. The important role of managing authentications is handled by Cisco Duo Security, in the form of a cloud service.

Of course, the need for secure remote connections existed even before the pandemic, but now it is truly critical for most companies and organizations. The option to order employees to go into the office to work with sensitive data and applications is not always available. As secure connections have become more important, the effort to simplify their management has also increased. This means that many companies are replacing older, less efficient, solutions right now. And streamlining management by exchanging several different solutions for a company-wide one.

Fast-growing Sinch needed a simple, uniform solution

This clearly applies to the Swedish company Sinch. Since being founded under a different name in 2008, it has grown spectacularly with a collection of services for handling messages in all relevant channels. A simple description is that it is possible to reach all mobiles in the whole world in a few seconds. This applies to all types of communication to mobiles, in addition to voice-based comms also SMS, MMS, RCS (Rich Communication Services), WhatsApp and chatbots.

It is possible to send one and the same message in all channels and to customize the communication. Add the programming interface (APIs) for easy integration with other applications and services, and for building customized solutions.

Henrik Sandell, founder of Conscia-customer SinchHaving a uniform solution for handling remote connections for our staff is important. It must be easy to administer, so you can’t have a lot of different solutions in various countries,” explains Henrik Sandell, one of the founders of Sinch who handles IT-infrastructure issues.

Sinch currently has just over 2,000 employees in 47 countries. The head office is in Stockholm and Sinch is listed on Nasdaq in the same city. Business is going brilliantly. Sales increased by 95 percent to SEK 3 billion, during the fourth quarter of 2020. Operating profit (gross profit) was SEK 796 million, an increase of 81 percent. Eight of the ten largest technology companies in the United States use Sinch’s services.

Conscia a key partner in global implementation

When the “VPN project” began in May last year, 2020, work began with collecting requirements and design work, with Conscia as a consulting company. The work with the requirements specification alone took up to 80 hours. The description of the design at a detailed level resulted in an 80-page document. In January, the ongoing implementation began, with Conscia as a partner. From Sinch’s side, four people work with the implementation, some as much as just over half of the working time. The implementation takes time because there are many countries to deal with.

-“There was a lot of work with the VPN project in the beginning. An advantage of working with Conscia is that they are involved in several projects with us. Their consultants get a good insight into Sinch and an understanding of our requirements,” says Henrik Sandell.

– We get excellent support from Conscia. It’s nice to have a partner to lean on, says, Jens Bellander, IT architect at Sinch.

So far, the implementation has gone well, and everything works as it should with the desired ease of use. An important goal of the VPN project, and other parallel projects, is precisely to simplify administration. Sinch has an internal IT department, called Business IT, of about 20 people, most of whom are in Stockholm. Most IT staff work with support, so there are only a few people who administer networks, rights, and not least security, as well as everything else that belongs to IT operations at a company with just over 2,000 employees.

Secure remote connections and authentication with Cisco

To succeed in reducing the management, while at the same time providing the necessary functionality, a network architecture has been built with several products and services. Four of them come from Cisco and are central to security, authentication, and the like. It is obviously difficult to draw sharp boundaries between areas such as “network”, “security”, “identity management”, “rights”, “authorization control”, and more. Everything belongs together, but the following four Cisco products can clearly be called security solutions:

How are they connected?

With VPN, users can connect. Duo for authentication connects the solution, together with ISE,” Henrik Sandell explains.

Cisco ISE can be described as a platform for managing security policies and for providing secure access to network resources. Add Cisco Umbrella, a cloud-based DNS protection security platform. All in all, they provide a secure network work environment, easy login from anywhere with different types of devices. In addition to Cisco products, there are additional security solutions, for example for client protection.

Cisco Duo is a cloud service (SaaS) that uses intermediate stations, called proxies, to handle authentication. Sinch uses Duo-proxy both installed in its own data centers and in the form of cloud services. The key components required for Cisco VPN are also in both your own data centers and in the cloud.

A solution for authentication may not seem that important. But without a secure, flexible login management solution, all other security solutions will be meaningless. Authentication is a key security feature, or at least as important as any other. The point of Cisco Duo is, in addition to flexible handling of different methods of authentication and smooth administration, that it is a solution that works well with other products. This is an advantage compared to some competitors and some open alternatives.