What is Coffee Shop Networking?

"Coffee shop networking" refers to a modern, flexible approach to enterprise networking that caters to the needs of the increasingly distributed workforce in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era.

This model is driven by the shift towards hybrid work environments, where employees are not anchored to a specific office location but rather work from various locations, including coffee shops, their homes, or any remote location that offers internet connectivity.

The essence of "coffee shop networking" lies in its goal to replicate the seamless and straightforward connectivity experience akin to that of connecting to a coffee shop's Wi-Fi network, but with the added complexities and security measures required for accessing corporate resources. It emphasizes the need for lightweight, adaptable networking solutions that can provide secure, high-performance access to web, SaaS, cloud, and on-premises applications without the dependency on heavy or complex network infrastructure traditionally associated with corporate offices.

In the context of SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Networking), "coffee shop networking" manifests as a demand for simpler, lower-cost SD-WAN functionality that suits the "work from anywhere" model rather than the full-featured, higher-cost SD-WAN solutions designed for branch offices with many full-time employees. This approach acknowledges that remote-only users and those working in a hybrid manner may require different levels of network functionality and security compared to traditional office settings.

Consequently, within this paradigm, stand-alone SD-WAN products that do not integrate security features are considered less relevant. Instead, there's a growing preference for SD-WAN functionality to be delivered as part of a broader security offering, such as next-generation firewalls (NGFW) or Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions. This shift aligns with the need for a more integrated, security-centric approach to networking that supports the diverse requirements of today's dispersed enterprise users while ensuring the maintenance of robust security standards crucial for protecting organizational assets in a "coffee shop networking" world.