Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s)
You may have heard from a friend that you can use a public VPN, which is an acronym for virtual private network, to connect to Netflix from another country and watch shows you normally can’t, or perhaps you use a VPN to keep your Internet Service Provider from knowing enough to sell retailers your information. But…what really IS a VPN?
What Is a VPN?
Essentially a VPN is a secure connection between your device and a server. Once connected, all the traffic from your device goes through that server before going to the internet or making its way back to your device. This works when you are surfing the web, checking email, or doing anything else on the web.
But Why Would a Business have a VPN?
Businesses today use VPN’s for a variety of reasons, but they fall into three basic categories.
- Accessing internal resources from remote locations.
Does that mean you should start using a VPN for your business? Possibly. However, let’s dig into those reasons just a bit, and the pros and cons that relate.
Reasons for a Business VPN
Reason #1: Accessing internal resources
- Remote Work: Many companies run servers at their corporate offices or from hosting facilities that provide file sharing, software, or platforms for employees use. Often, the lowest cost solution for granting access to these resources is the use of a VPN. Once the employee is connected to the VPN, they can access business resources as though they are working from the office.
Reason #2: Protecting your business from malicious activity
- Gain of Insight: Because a VPN routes all traffic through your business’s Enterprise-grade firewall with security software running on it, you gain insight as to what is being accessed and how. This allows your business to react on an order of magnitude more quickly in response to developing security incidents.
- Website Filtering: One of the easiest ways to protect the integrity of your business systems is to have a mandatory business VPN policy. By whitelisting the IP’s and names of acceptable websites and services in conjunction with the use of the VPN server being mandatory, you can block unwanted traffic as well as block access to non-business-related items on company workstations. Now, you don’t have to worry whether your employees are following the acceptable use policy, since they simply cannot access the web without the VPN being on and active.
Reason #3: Privacy
- Secure Use of Public Wifi: As you may have already heard, connecting to a public Wifi can be a risky decision… Unless you have a VPN! Once connected to a properly setup VPN that encrypts all of your traffic, you will be able to use public Wifi without having to be concerned that someone is able to see your data.
- Secure Use of the Internet While Traveling: If you are traveling in a censorship-heavy country or worried about snooping at a business conference, for example, then a properly setup VPN will allow you to browse the internet safely without risk.
The Cons of Business VPNs
- Upkeep/Maintenance: The major drawback to implementing and relying on a VPN for business is the extra oversight necessary to properly keep it secure. Allowing the hardware used by the VPN to become outdated, choosing older, less-secure encryption methods, or simply not monitoring logs can turn a VPN from a boon to a boondoggle very quickly.
- Mild Latency: VPNs take your requests, forward them to the intended server, wait for response, collect it, and then return it straight back to your system. On top of all that, there is an extra layer of encryption for every bit of data that flows through it. As you can imagine, all of this can add up to a slight but possibly noticeable lag in communication. With a proper enterprise grade firewall, this “hit” to the speed is minimal, however with cheaper budget hardware, this issue can be very problematic. A few extra milliseconds probably does not sound like much in the way of speed, but the impact on mission-critical activities like trading, cloud computing, or even something as simple as a video call, can sometimes be debilitating.
- Complicated Setup: A public VPN, Like NordVPN or PrivateInternetAccess for example, is certainly not the ideal solution for a business organization. For this reason, we always recommend setting up a private, dedicated network. The extra layer of security comes at a cost, as the vast majority of businesses lack the technical expertise to properly set up a private VPN on their own, but having a properly setup enterprise-grade firewall is the best option. To ensure that your organization’s VPN is setup with the proper protocols in place, it may be necessary to hire a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or professional IT consultant. After reviewing your network, they can easily determine the appropriate setup necessary for your organization.
It is safe to say that most businesses stand to gain a lot by having a dedicated VPN for their organization. It will go a long way towards securing a company’s infrastructure and the invaluable data it holds.
So, if you are asking “Should we have a VPN for our business”?
The answer, without knowing your business, is only a “maybe.” Choices like these should not be made in a vacuum, and not every business has a need for a business-owned VPN that would require the additional cost and complexity. A firm yes or no for any business requires a thorough review of the specific processes and needs by an IT professional/MSP.
This is when your company needs to engage an IT expert, whether it be internal or external, like the Senior IT Consultants on our team at Optistar Technology Consultants. With 20+ years of professional IT experience, our team has the ability to offer customized technology and security solutions specifically for your business.
If your organization would like the help of a seasoned, Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO), we would love to speak with you. To schedule a 15-minute consultation, complete the form on this page. As another option, feel free to call us at 888-782-7003. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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