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A Simple Definition: What is an ‘Endpoint’?

Jargon abounds in the technical world of IT, with obscure-but-precise language sometimes getting in the way of conceptual understanding. The term endpoint fits the bill. While it may make sense to a seasoned IT professional, the rest of us may need a little help. What exactly is an endpoint? Why does it matter?

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According to Wikipedia, “endpoint” is a hardcore punk band from Louisville, Kentucky. A more common definition for endpoint in computer networking, architecture, and operations, however, is a mobile device such as a laptop, phone, or tablet.

The term has its origin in reference to computer networks. The endpoint is a device or node that is connected to the LAN or WAN and accepts communications back and forth across the network. In a traditional sense, an endpoint can be a modem, hub, bridge, or switch. It also could be data terminal equipment (such as a digital telephone handset, router, or printer) or a host computer (such as a workstation or a server).

Yet today endpoint is used most commonly in network security and end user mobility circles to mean any device outside the corporate firewall. That could be a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone on the “edge” (or periphery) of the network and which individuals connect to the central network.

Endpoint use is increasing in the business world due to workforce mobility, by which I mean the rarity that you’re ever in your office, much less tethered to a desk. Traditional network-focused protocols are designed for the PC-era and the desktop. With over 30% of data outside the firewall on endpoint devices, IT needs to deal with security and communications in real time, across varying locations and bandwidths, with possibly insecure apps loaded on an ever-increasing number of devices, with consistent exposure to malware across Internet protocols.

IT teams solve for the challenges of endpoints using a variety of technologies (such as virtual private networks, VPNs) that enable safe connection to the main, managed network. Cloud endpoint backup technologies (like Druva!) also enable real-time backup of the data on endpoints, minimizing the risk of data loss. They also give IT tools to manage corporate data on endpoints, such as the ability to remote wipe and create a trusted data store in the cloud.

Ironically, endpoints are fast becoming a more common way to compute and communicate than the local, fixed machines from which they were derived. The notion of a safe and secure network and insecure endpoints is fast giving way to a more modern concept: that of computing across any device or network, with always-on security protecting companies and users across local and cloud-enabled storage.

Recommended Resources: Druva 2017 VMware Cloud Migration Survey

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