The old days of retail transactions were a simpler time. Your customers paid cash for their products and services — money you could hold in your hand. If your customers didn’t have cash, well, then they didn’t get their goods or services.

Cash transactions morphed into electronic payments, wherein a point-of-sale (POS) terminal was connected point to point to a bank or lender by a dedicated telecom circuit, allowing retailers to accept payment cards. And then came the internet.

Since the advent of the internet, electronic payments are now digital payments — and these are not the same thing. Electronic payments were secure and supported by restrictive infrastructure. Digital payments use open, common-source API and the internet, often Wi-Fi, to connect a POS terminal to banks and credit card vendors.

This has created areas of vulnerability for retailers everywhere. And those vulnerabilities don’t just exist in the POS terminal itself. Think about all the connected devices within a modern retail environment — tablets, smartphones, computers, smart speakers, wireless printers, security cameras, smart thermostats, augmented/virtual reality terminals for customer use, and so on. Anything connected to the internet represents a risk, because it could be a backdoor for bad actors into a POS terminal, and, therefore, into payment card data.

This means retailers must consider two main things: how they safely manage so many digital and connected devices within a retail environment, and how they can securely support their digital payments applications.

This is where SD-WAN comes in. Among other capabilities, software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) gives retailers a more efficient way to manage business-critical applications like payment routing. It provides a centralized way to manage a network, reducing the complexity of an always-connected commerce environment.

With SD-WAN, retailers can securely connect, for example:

  • Online e-commerce gateways
  • Automatic Teller Machines (ATM)
  • POS terminals
  • Tablets for digital payments
  • Cash registers
  • Printers
  • Back-office computing
  • Fuel forecourt tank gauges
  • CCTV cameras
  • Guest Wi-Fi networks

It can provide a high level of detail for all of these connected devices, showing retailers what devices are consuming data at the communications layer. This helps retailers prioritize their data usage centrally to secure their payments and other business-critical systems.

SD-WAN can also protect sensitive card data. It can integrate best-in-class security protocols like next-generation stateful firewalls (NGFW) (including IP SEC VPN tunnels), anti-virus features, URL filtering and SSL packet inspection, increasing data and network security across retail environments.

At the end of the day, retailers should be focusing on providing an excellent experience for customers — not worrying about whether their connected devices or their payments terminals are opening the door to risk. With SD-WAN as the overlay on the broadband or Ethernet connection, and a resilient, proven payments network infrastructure as the underlay, retailers can securely and reliably manage payments transactions and gain peace of mind — for themselves and for their customers.

John Tait is Global Managing Director of TNS’ Payments Market business. He is responsible for identifying and driving growth across the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific regions, and is focused on meeting the unique requirements of TNS’ customers.