Still using a corporate VPN? Here are 6 things you should consider
Cloud computing is rapidly changing how teams work together with applications like Office 365 and Google G Suite, which are improving productivity and reducing costs. What many business and IT leaders have now started to consider is how the cloud can protect their company as staff remotely access files and information. Prior to the mainstream adoption of cloud, most companies relied on using VPN (Virtual Private Network) services to securely allow staff to connect to their network when they weren't at the office. In fact, many organizations still rely on this technology today. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing (VPNs have reliably protected businesses for a long time), it's important to consider the benefits of cloud as an alternative to VPN.
What is a VPN?
A VPN uses a public network like the Internet to connect to a private system like a corporate network. A VPN is a secure tunnel enabling those with authorization to access internal files, email and applications stored on the company's internal servers. VPNs protect data transmissions by way of encryption. Proponents of VPNs say the private network provides a secure environment in which users can transmit and receive data safely. To create a private VPN, a business has to have a VPN appliance that needs to be configured, monitored and maintained by IT staff. (This is not to be confused with today's cloud-based VPN services, which are delivered by a third party.)
Cloud computing is all about giving staff a secure way to access company information via the Internet as well. Instead of using a private network, like a VPN does, the cloud is a set of online servicesprovided by a third party (Both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure offer such services, for example). From there, businesses can use the cloud to access applications, email services, storage space, and a host of other options.
Below are some issues to consider when deciding whether or not to hold onto your company's VPN system.
Issue #1: VPN hardware is more time-consuming to scale and maintain than the cloud
Appliance-based solutions simply can’t keep up with today’s enterprise workforce. Employees are in airports, hotels, coffee shops, and anyplace where a hot spot promises Internet connectivity. As your workforce grows, so too does your needs for more hardware. You need to then plan, purchase, set up, monitor and maintain more VPN appliances (not to mention more servers, firewalls, etc.) The cloud, on the other hand, easily scales with your business. As your needs change, you can turn on more or less services.
Issue #2: Reliable VPN can be costly
Reliable VPN with no restriction on web traffic is not cheap: local disk space costs a lot of money. Of course, there are free or cheaper VPNs available, however, these are not recommended for security reasons. Many such services are known to have violated users’ privacy or even make money by selling their customers' bandwidth to other users. Even if you select a good VPN, you will still need a careful configuration and set up, as well ongoing maintenance from an IT professional. Additionally, an onboarding procedure would need to be followed for every new IT colleague. Conversely, the cloud obsoletes a VPN altogether, reducing the costs of purchasing and maintaining hardware as well freeing up time for IT staff to focus on more important work.
Issue #3: VPNs can be slow
In an appliance world, you have to establish a secure connection with a VPN back to headquarters or to some regional hub where a security appliance is deployed. The further away the person connected to the VPN is, the longer it takes for the information to travel from the VPN appliance to the user's device. This deteriorates the user experience, encouraging some users to access the Internet directly, raising the risk of infection, and then introducing malware to the corporate network once connected.
Comparatively, using a cloud service, the user accesses information from the nearest data center, which enforces security policies that allow them to access the Internet with full protection and faster speeds. The user gets the same protection whether sitting at headquarters, in a hotel in London, or in a coffee shop in Chicago.
Issue #4: Inability to co-author files
Have you ever needed to work on a file that was "locked by another user"? Traditional file sharing over a VPN means that two people can't work on the same files at the same time. In today's age of cloud-based collaboration tools, having to wait for someone else to be done using a file makes the wait time all the more frustrating.
Issue #5: It's time-consuming to work on large files over a VPN
Working on large files can be a problem for VPN services. Each time you save, the entire file is sent through the VPN connection to the private network, which can be problematic with large files. Whenever you make a change to a file in the cloud, regardless the size of your file, only the portion of the file that is changed is synced and saved. This not only saves you bandwidth but makes syncing across devices way faster.
Issue #6: Inability to create file version histories
VPNs do not support file revisions. Just like with regular servers, there’s only one copy of a file kept. If a change is made to a file, once it is uploaded back to the server, the previous information is gone forever. A common solution to this problem is to name every single new file with a version name to keep track of all the file's variations. This can lead to leads to errors in using the wrong information, as well as a lot of used up storage space.
Cloud services like Microsoft SharePoint, for example, create a version of a file every time it is saved. If you need to go back in time to find a previous version, it is easy to find and restore.
While we're not sayingthat corporate VPNs are all bad, cloud is certainly worthy of consideration as an alternative. Cloud services are continuously being updated to defend against today’s sophisticated threats including botnets, malicious websites, and ransomware attacks, and you don’t have to worry about having to buy and refresh hardware.