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Business VPNs: Now More Important Than Ever
Cybersecurity threats are on the rise. With the rapid shift of the business environment to digital work, and the growing trends of work-from-home and global workforces, hackers and cybercriminals can have a field day.
However, there’s a lot of things businesses of any size can do to ensure affordable, intuitive protection against such intrusions- and an integrated business VPN solution should be the launch point for all your other security measures. Today we take a deep dive into what VPNs are, how they boost your online security against ransomware and other issues, and how to make the most of them as a business solution.
What is a VPN?
VPN is simply the acronym for Virtual Private Network. Today, it’s not enough to simply ensure your business PCs, laptops, and other devices are up-to-date on antivirus software (although they should be). We host a ton of sensitive data on our devices, and we interact primarily through digital interfaces. We chat online, send emails between coworkers, and work from all sorts of locations. The more data being openly transferred across the net, the more risk that the ‘bad guys’ can intercept and access it.
The easiest way to envisage a VPN is as a ‘secure tunnel’ between your staff’s device and the websites, cloud services, and other online resources they need to carry out their daily tasks. The VPN creates the online illusion that your device is in the same space and local connection as the VPN. In other words, you appear to be browsing from the server’s geographical location, not wherever the end device is.
Sophisticated modern VPNs also encrypt the data being transferred through them. This means hackers ‘see’ a stream of nonsense they can’t decode, instead of the actual contents of your data. VPNs help ensure better online privacy, decrease monitoring from data collectors, ads, and government agencies, and help keep you safe and secure no matter where you are or the quality of your underlying connection. Even public wifi becomes a safer space with a VPN in use, meaning your staff are free to work where they will, when they can, without worrying about the integrity of your company’s data.
Why Businesses Need a VPN
In the modern digital space, privacy and security are a must- and a VPN brings you that. Company financial details or card details, private conversations, client and third-party supplier data, sensitive documents, and login credentials are masked from the prying eyes of cybercriminals, leaving you as safe as if everyone was in the same building. Or even more so!
VPNs can also be incredibly useful when you have staff working across geographic boundaries. Because everyone appears to be working in the ‘same’ location, it’s a lot easier for geo-restricted websites you may be using as part of your work day.
Choosing a Smart, Business-Focused VPN
There’s a variety of security products on the market today, for everything from enterprise-sized businesses down to startups and small businesses. Obviously, you want to aim for a product that’s sized for the developmental stage of your company, preferably with cost-effectiveness and scalability built in so it can adapt with you.
It should go without saying that free VPNs are a no-no for the business market. Many of them collect data themselves, selling it on to data brokers and even cybercriminals themselves. Even legitimate free services support themselves through ads, the last thing you want to have splattered all over your corporate face.
It’s better to opt for a high quality, reliable product that delivers all the security features you need. Perimeter 81, for example, is a well-known cybersecurity solution for businesses that allow you to build, manage and defend your corporate networks, no matter where your staff are working from. In addition to their VPN, they offer an integrated one-stop unified security platform that’s easy to use and deploy. This may well be a better solution than ‘just’ a VPN that requires you to run (and pay for) other security solutions separately.
Other key considerations when choosing a business VPN include:
- Location: This is most critical if you’re using region-blocked websites regularly, or need to ensure all team members present from the same geographical location
- Capacity: Some VPNs have data use restrictions. In the corporate environment, you need to know you won’t be blocked halfway through the month due to your traffic
- Devices: It’s unusual to just be using PCs in the modern business environment. You need to know all devices used by your staff can be integrated into the VPN network you choose.
- Trust: IP leaks, where your IP address can be determined despite using a VPN, are not uncommon in inferior products. Working with a trustworthy product you can rely on is essential.
Problems Solved by VPNs
Common internet searches around VPNs center on the ability to bypass geo-location and censorship, and identity concealment. It can be tough to see how this translates to the business environment- but those same factors greatly improve your own cybersecurity efforts, simply through a different lens.
While outright censorship is unlikely to be a business issue, not being able to access resources because of geographic location very much is. Likewise, while you may not think of it as needing your staff to ‘conceal their identity’, you don’t want your most sensitive company documents vulnerable to anyone’s intrusion, nor do you want ad trackers and data farmers intruding into the business environment.
This links to the other business-critical reason to use a VPN- wifi security. For staff working in the office, you (hopefully) have a fully secure wifi network. However, with a mobile workforce, that isn’t a given anymore. Public wifi is convenient and allows staff members to work whenever, wherever is needed. But there’s no guaranteeing what, if any, security is in place on the connection. We’re commonly warned to be careful of using sensitive websites like online banking portals on such networks, but it’s just as important that staff don’t allow intrusive access into your private files on the same. Many will not even consider this.
Lastly, but no less importantly, data tracking has become a default of the online and social media landscape. From Amazon to Google, an immense amount of valuable data is being stored around what you do online, your preferences and choices, and a lot more. While we’ve seen recent inroads to help curb this from Apple as well as the EU, most sites and devices allow little control over this data collection and targeting of content. It’s even sold to us as a ‘better’ browsing experience, because you can see ‘targeted content’ that ‘only interests you’. In reality, you and your staff are just a valuable source of marketing data.
Even where you are comfortable with this tracking, seeing localized data and personalized results is not always useful in a business role. You may want your staff to be able to access standardized pricing, or see results relevant to your business, not their location.
A secure cybersecurity solution starts with a strong business VPN- and grows from there. In the digital work landscape, having sufficient cybersecurity measures in place to keep your company data and infrastructure safe is essential, and good business practice.
An efficient VPN connection is protected from outside threats and conceals your IP address by directing the network traffic through a specifically set-up distant server that is operated by a VPN host.
It’s important that you consider the pros and cons of using a VPN on Linux, and understand what it can and cannot do for you before using one. It entirely safeguards your private and personal information and keeps it from falling into the hands of third parties who may use it against you.
When choosing a reliable VPN, privacy and security should be prioritized.
Looking for additional resources? Have a look at: What You Need to Know when Considering a VPN on Linux, Benefits & Drawbacks of Using a VPN on Linux, and The Dangers of Using a VPN for Remote Work: Zero Trust to Replace It.