Every device connected to the internet has a unique identifier known as an Internet Protocol (IP) address. A VPN, or virtual private network, sits on top of a public network like the internet to mask this address, instead of displaying the one belonging to the service provider. This protects online privacy while allowing users to appear as though they’re connecting from the same geographical location as that of the provider. Consumers regularly use VPNs to get around browsing restrictions in certain countries, but the technology has important implications in business as well.
All businesses, regardless of their size or industry, need an enterprise-grade VPN. Consumer offerings, which are normally free or very cheap, don’t offer the same degree of security, and some VPN providers themselves track things like browsing habits. In business environments, a VPN does more than just allow you to get around certain browsing restrictions — they also provide added security and privacy, and make it possible for an increasingly mobile workforce to connect safely to public wireless networks.
Empowering your mobile workforce with stronger security
Many people have developed poor security habits that are hard to break. One of these is the tendency to connect to unsecured public wireless networks without a second thought. While it’s convenient not to have to ask someone for the password, the fact that anyone can connect to these networks makes the potential attack surface much greater. With specialized software, anyone can listen in on the communication between a specific device and the local router. If there’s any exchange of unencrypted sensitive data, that could be a recipe for disaster.
Employees are fast growing accustomed to working at home and on the move. Furthermore, many businesses work with remote contractors and freelancers who may need access to their internal systems. The remote workforce is now the new norm, but when people are connecting to your web-based systems through unsecured networks, the risk of a data breach is much higher. Enterprise-grade VPNs ensure that all data in transit is encrypted, instead of having to rely on websites and web apps themselves to use transport layer security (TLS).
Deploying a VPN in your business gives remote employees the ability to connect safely from any network, regardless of whether or not it’s protected by WPA2 authentication. You can also configure your web apps to deny access to anyone who isn’t connecting through your VPN. In this respect, your IT department will also be better equipped to track user access across the network and quickly identify any potentially suspicious login attempts. With many companies now using online services like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and G Suite, this provides easy yet safe access.
Overcoming browsing restrictions with geo-independence
For business travelers, geographical browsing restrictions and differences can present serious problems when it comes to accessing important websites and online services. Sometimes, the country itself blocks certain resources, with China being the most infamous example. Try logging into Gmail, Facebook, or Instagram in that country, and you’ll be unable to do so. Even if the web services your employees use for work aren’t specifically blocked, they’ll usually prioritize local content, thereby leading to a very different browsing experience. If you’ve ever typed in “Google.com” when abroad, then you already know how frustrating that can be. Connecting via a VPN effectively provides a gateway to the internet as you’d experience it back home. It’s also more secure when it comes to protecting your anonymity, privacy, and security in other jurisdictions around the world.
VPNs aren’t a quick fix for everything. Some websites and online services, Netflix being one of the most common examples, hate VPNs and deliberately try to block incoming connections from known VPN providers. Moreover, it’s important to remember that VPN operators are still businesses that are themselves subject to subpoenas and warrants, and some make a profit by tracking and selling your browsing data. That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly review their terms and conditions and commitments to privacy. In the end, they’re not the be-all and end-all of safety, but there’s no denying that an enterprise-grade VPN can add an important extra layer of security to your organization.
Refresh offers business-grade virtual private networking as standard with its network security solutions. Call us today to schedule your consultation.
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