VPN has become a common term in the IT community. Many businesses, small and large alike, have used VPNs to protect their data when connecting to another network. With the proper setup, these systems can provide another layer of security and give you access to resources on your intranet or extranet that would otherwise be inaccessible from outside the firewall.
Companies that are dealing with clients and vendors all over the world need to start using VPN for reasons other than security as well. With cybersecurity issues becoming a real concern in the world today, it is imperative that companies start relying on VPN to conduct business and communication. To understand how a strong and powerful VPN can add real value to your business, please click here.
However, companies sometimes struggle with implementing a remote access VPN solution due to either budgetary constraints or simply not knowing where to start. The following outlines three simple steps for integrating a business VPN into your existing infrastructure.
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The first step is to determine what kind of approach you want for remote user authentication and authorization. There are several different methods available depending on your situation. The most basic of these is imposing a separate set of credentials on the user when attempting to connect from outside his or her regular workstation. This can be done in tandem with your existing username and password system, or it can be its own credential altogether.
In addition to setting up strong authentication, you should also encrypt all data between the application and the remote PC when VPN access is used. Ensure that both inbound and outbound traffic is protected by a strong hashing algorithm such as SHA-2 (Secure Hashing Algorithm) or Advanced Encryption Standard. Free providers as Privado, ProtonVPN, and Surfshark have this by default.
There are several business models where this approach makes sense: finance departments trying to comply with SOX regulations, employees who travel often, consultants working offsite, etc. However, this approach requires the user to remember two sets of usernames and passwords. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure your VPN system is capable of linking back to Active Directory (for Windows authentication) or LDAP for centralized credential storage.
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Another option is what we’ll call pay-as-you-go where each remote access session is closed as soon as it’s finished. This method does not require any client software on the PC but does place a premium on stable network connections because there is no way to maintain the encrypted tunnel once disconnected.
Using this system also limits how often individual users can log in because they are essentially purchasing their sessions rather than making them reusable within a certain time frame.
The pay-as-you-go method is best for employees who travel infrequently and users whose primary job function does not require access to corporate resources outside of a standard workday. Not only does it reduce the administrative overhead associated with maintaining an onsite VPN server, but it also puts less stress on the network itself by limiting usage.
If your business falls into one of these categories, this approach might be right for you. Like any system that supports remote connections, though, keep in mind that users will need high-speed internet access in order to maintain their session. If speeds drop below what’s necessary for acceptable performance inside the tunnel, connections will likely fail because each data packet needs to traverse the full path just like any other network request.
Although not perfect for every use case, these two options represent the most common ways organizations connect remotely using VPN technology. They are simple to set up and maintain, often requiring only minimal training before users can reap their benefits for secure remote access.
As with any system that provides authentication or access control security, there is bound to be some overhead involved in its maintenance. For this reason, many companies choose to deploy a hybrid solution that combines elements of both pay-as-you-go and dedicated VPNs depending on the situation at hand.
This involves activating the feature when required without asking individual employees to configure it themselves. As you might expect, this approach uses fewer resources while also providing workforce flexibility by giving employees more control over their own systems.
Regardless of which approach you take to VPN authentication and access control, it’s important to remember that security is only as strong as its weakest link. If you implement one of these solutions without also taking steps to secure your network from other attack vectors such as malware downloads or social engineering scams, the benefits will be quickly outweighed by outside threats.
Since these two approaches both place a premium on software usability and integration with existing infrastructure, don’t forget about applications that can help automate implementation for added convenience. This will allow new users to log in without assistance while also ensuring key features work properly across multiple devices and operating systems.