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What is a VPN and why is it more important than ever right now?
The SRM Blog

What is a VPN and why is it more important than ever right now?

Ian Armstrong

Written by Ian Armstrong

23rd July 2020

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What is a VPN?

While remote working has been on the rise for several years, the COVID-19 pandemic has opened the floodgates to home-based office work. While businesses, in the most part, adjusted very quickly to the challenges of lockdown, we are now entering an important phase in which new working patterns need to be consolidated and optimised – not only to improve productivity but also to enhance security.

IT teams around the globe have been under immense pressure to scale virtual private network (VPN) access in order to accommodate a wider geographical net. Most businesses build their network with physical proximity in mind, making the current situation more than a bit of a challenge.

But what is a VPN exactly, and what’s the best way to accommodate changes in your new business model?

 

What is a VPN?

As the name suggests, a virtual private network is a private network created over a public Internet connection. VPNs are designed to connect remote users to a company’s private internal network. It provides reliable online privacy and confidentiality within your business by encrypting the traffic from your machine to the exit point on the VPN network. This means only other authorised network users are able to access potentially sensitive data and documentation.

By masking your Internet Protocol, or IP, address, VPNs make your online actions virtually untraceable – a step which helps to avoid both malicious and accidental breaches. They offer a safe way to connect business networks together securely, shielding web activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi.

 

Expanding the network for home working

Many businesses won’t have considered remote working as a factor when building their physical networks, especially in industries where face-to-face interactions are considered essential. So right now, these organisations may be forced to build their VPN from the ground up, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity.

Starting from scratch with your VPN lets you deploy a network with capacity, visibility and security at the forefront, but you also need to be aware of possible vulnerabilities. If deployed incorrectly, VPNs can provide back door access for cybercriminals.

Security is the primary consideration when setting up a VPN. Applying regular updates and patches to limit vulnerabilities must be carried out regularly. VPN connections should be monitored throughout the organisation, ensuring resident IT experts have all the information they need to stop threats should they present themselves.

Employees must also treat everything they do on their remote device as if they were in the office. Home networks are considered easy pickings for many hackers, so basic security protocols like password protection and phishing awareness are more important than ever.

 

Free VPNs: yes or no?

While there are a number of free VPN options advertised on the market today, it is important to remember that, typically, you pay for what you get and, where information security is your primary concern, value should not be confused with cost. Avoid using these free options where possible and instead look for a reputable VPN vendor offering high quality security and a professional service.

As always, it is worth weighing up the additional overhead of a VPN against the potential cost of any data breach to your organisation.

 

Maintaining high security levels

Having people connect to a VPN at the same time from different locations can present problems. Businesses must either maintain security standards which require all users to continue using the VPN, or they limit the number of connections to the VPN, putting security and productivity at risk.

Routing all traffic from end devices to the corporate VPN can help maintain visibility on these devices, as though they were still in the office. In order to maintain continuity within the business, organisations must offer the same level of experience to all users no matter their location, and this requires close monitoring of the user experience.

Educating employees on the importance of the VPN, as well as on security as a whole, is a key part of maintaining good business practice. It only takes one successful phishing attempt to bring malware into the business network, and it only takes one individual streaming a movie while they work to slow the VPN down for everybody.

SRM can help you keep your business secure even as employees make the move to remote working. If you need advice and guidance on VPNs or any other facet of security, get in touch with our team today. Call on 03450 21 21 51 or click here to access our contact form.

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