Nowadays more and more companies choose to have remote employees and telecommuters because it can benefit their company a lot. These benefits are quite obvious.
Benefits of Having Remote Workers
– Employees can do their tasks even when they are not physically present in the office
– Employees are often agreeable to the idea of working more hours if they are allowed to work from home
– Administrators and managers can solve emergency problems faster and may be willing to respond to less-critical issues immediately. With normal business hours they would definitely apply an “it can wait till tomorrow” attitude when already at home.
– Companies that offer remote access to many of its employees (for example, IT consulting) can maintain less office space and thus save money.
With all these advantages, the main issue to solve is how telecommuters and traveling workers can connect to the company’s network when they need it. The answer is quite obvious – it will be done via the Internet. But then appears another question: how to make this connection secure? And this is where VPN (Virtual Private Network) comes in. Once, only big companies could afford using VPN servers to protect their information. Now this opportunity is available for small and middle-sized businesses as well.
What’s a VPN?
VPN technology is private communication channel on a public network which is the Internet. Security is the essential concept of a VPN. The three fundamental components of VPN security are encryption, authentication, and tunneling. A VPN ensures privacy by encrypting a message before it is transferred through the public network. When the message arrives at the other end of the public network, the VPN decrypts it. This encrypted passage the message travels through is called a tunnel. The hardware and software at the tunnel’s endpoints are responsible for the encryption that scrambles the data and the authentication that controls access to the tunnel so that only authorized users can access it.
Thus, VPN services are valuable for businesses because they can allow remote workers secure access to the company’s network, just like if they were at their desks in the office. Another advantage of VPN is that it is a cheaper alternative to a dedicated phone line. Besides, it will save you money spent on long-distance phone calls.
When should you think of using VPN for your small business?
Using VPN can be a good solution for your business if you:
– Have more than five employers. VPN should be used by companies with 10 or more employees, including remote workers and telecommuters. If a company has less than 5 employees, VPN can be a quite expensive solution.
– Have telecommuters or other remote workers. In this case, a VPN offers not only secure network access to remote workers but also makes them feel a part of the company by extending the corporate network to them.
– Consider your company’s data to be very sensitive. Certainly, most businesses consider their data to be extremely sensitive. Company secrets and financial records as well as customer information and records are stored in the company’s internal network which should have the best protection the company can afford. But certainly, if your sensitive information is stored offline and you don’t have anything online (which is very rare today), you may not need VPN.
– Have SSL-encrypted Internet pages already. There are some Web-based alternatives to a VPN that a company with quite low sensitivity requirements may use for authentication and encryption. But it’s obvious that these alternatives are less secure than VPNs.
If you have already decided that you need VPN for your business, you should consider the following:
– Who will install it? If you have an IT consultant you may purchase and install a VPN from a first-rate provider. Thus you will have more control concerning the setup and usage. But if you don’t have a qualified specialist, it may be a bit of a hassle for you.
– Firewall vs. VPN. A company needs both VPN and a firewall. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel through your network’s firewall and it also keeps hackers out. But you still need a firewall which serves as a prison fence around your network.
– What is the difference between CPE and network-based VPNs? The majority of VPNs on the market are CPE-based (Customer Premise Equipment-based solution). They offer end-to-end encryption while network-based solutions do not encrypt information until it reaches the Internet. This may be critical for companies which are connected with banking, finance, health care, telecommunications and others which are required by law to have secure networks. For smaller companies network-based solutions can be a good choice because they are often cheaper and easier to manage.
– Check for operating system compatibility and “IPSec” compliancy. When you purchase a VPN, make sure it is compatible with your operating system. It may concern especially those users who use Macintosh systems or Windows 98 or a prior operating system on the desktop. IPSec (Internet Protocol Security) ensures the authenticity, integrity and confidentiality of network traffic only when it is used with compatible VPNs.
– Check how your VPN operates with your wireless LAN if you have one. If you want to have the utmost security, you should place your wireless network outside of your network firewall so that the VPN could tunnel through the firewall. You should do this because wireless network data can accumulate and move around inside the firewall. This can lead to nullifying the VPN and, thus, risking security.
Weighing all the pros and cons, it becomes quite clear that the possibilities which a VPN can offer to your business are unlimited, and it’s up to you to tap into these possibilities now.