07 Apr VPN Pros and Cons for Business
While Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have seen an increase lately in private users looking to improve privacy and subvert geo-locking and other restrictions, VPNs are rapidly falling out of favor as the “backbone” of the business network. Despite the growing number of downsides against VPN for business, there are still plenty of advantages to VPN. In this post we will look at some VPN pros and cons, and discuss alternative solutions to VPN.
In March of 2020, American VPN usage grew 124% due to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Satista.com. Though the majority of these users were private users and not businesses.
“Increased VPN usage can have many reasons, the most popular ones being access to other digital media content and social networks, and most importantly, access to different news sources,” said Statista.
What is a VPN for Business?
A virtual private network or VPN is a long-established method for connecting users to a corporate network and resources such as shared folders, printers and applications. VPN allows a business user to connect their personal machine to their office network using the internet by way of an encrypted tunnel that prevents malicious spying and attacks.
Despite the long-held pros of VPN there are some points in the cons column to consider. Let’s take a look…
VPN Pros and Cons
Pros of VPN
“In the wake of COVID-19, VPNs can help businesses ensure data security as they encourage their employees to work from home,” said a recent article from Clutch research.
Here are some of the top advantages of VPN for business:
Security – As you will find out below in the cons section, VPNs are being attacked at an increasing rate, so their security is not what it used to be. However, they do enable encryption to allow businesses to access their systems remotely on a public network. Which is our next point…
- Remote Work – A VPN allows business users to access apps and files from anywhere, which is more critical than ever in the post-COVID world.
- Safe File Transfer – Shared folders and file transfers are easy to maintain with VPN
- Collaboration – VPNs help improve collaboration by connecting people to resources from anywhere.
- Low Maintenance – VPNs remain relatively cost effective and simple to maintain, especially for businesses who have been operating with a VPN for years.
Cons of VPN
“Virtual private networks (VPNs) are under attack and hackers may be winning the battle, using exploits that are becoming all-too-common,” said a recent article at Security Boulevard Magazine. “While many may argue that VPNs are salvageable and can be returned to their once-lofty status of protecting data, it’s a fact that more and more exploits are discovered daily.”
- Security – The quote above says it all. VPNs are increasingly difficult to secure (see below for alternative solutions to mitigate risk). While VPN can help enable remote work and collaboration, one remote employee can compromise your entire network if they are keeping unsafe practices on their remote machine. Remember, VPN is a tunnel and it is vulnerable to breaches at either end.
- Performance – VPNs can create latency issues as they rely on your desktop’s local processing power to encrypt and rout data through remote servers. Because of this they can suffer from performance issues, including slow applications and downtime.
- Aging – VPN is already an aging technology at this point. As developers are always looking forward, VPN’s compatibility and viability will quickly dwindle as new technologies emerge.
- Lack of Flexibility – Because VPNs rely on local processing power, thin-clients like certain tablets or Chromebooks are not ideal for VPN usage.
- Not as Private as You Think – While there is a consumer belief that VPNs protect users from data collection, most social media and other consumer web apps are still collecting your data as part of their terms even when routing through a VPN.
Alternatives to VPN
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or VDI creates virtual machines which reside on a remote server. VDI is a much more modern approach to networking for businesses. It can be more complex than VPNs, but VDI offers vastly better performance and enables thin-client access, seamless user experience and is less vulnerable to cyberattacks. More about VDI
Remote Desktop Services (RDS)
Remote Desktop Services allows users with credentials to log into a remote desktop hosted on their server. One great advantage RDS has is its straightforwardness. RDS is relatively simple and offers solid performance and security. It is generally more cost effective than VDI. However, RDS does not ensure the same ubiquitous experience across devices and lacks customizability compared to VDI. More about RDS
Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)
ZTNA is an encrypted tunnel and is more or less the next iteration of VPNs. Unlike VPNs which allow full access to a LAN, ZTNA is a networking solution that denies access by default and only allows access to resources which users have explicitly been granted access to. Where a breached endpoint or pirated credentials to a VPN would permit scanning and compromise resources throughout the network, ZTNA technology will stop attackers at the endpoint. You may still see performance and flexibility issues you find with a VPN.
The pros of VPN haven’t changed over the years but the list of cons might be growing for businesses. While there are still many advantages to VPN, it is a technology that is rapidly falling out of favor for business uses. Companies looking to modernize their network would be wise to consider VDI or other solutions mentioned above before reinvesting in VPN.
Learn More: Which is Better? VDI vs VPN vs RDS