Have VPNs reached maximum saturation?

A laptop screen displaying a VPN logo
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

After a surge in VPN usage during the pandemic, its seems there has been a considerable drop in the number of adopters, new research has claimed.

A study conducted by Virtual Intelligence Briefing (ViB) and sponsored by IT infrastructure firm DH2i, has looked at pre and post pandemic levels of VPN usage, finding a significant recent slowdown in VPN usage growth.

While 85% of respondents revealed that they used a VPN in 2020 so that they could connect to their workplace's internal private network from their own home, this figure only increased by 2.4% for 2022. 

Better alternatives?

DH2i co-founder and CEO Don Boxley noted that "During 2020, the world experienced an unprecedented surge in the number of people working from home, a trend that has continued for many to present day."

Despite expecting the most recent research to show VPN usage increasing in line with this new way or working, the fact that it didn't suggests to Boxley that "VPN remote user deployments may have reached a maximum saturation point."

In looking further into this, the survey found that there are numerous issues involved with using the privacy tool that may be putting people off. Before the pandemic hit in 2020, VPN usage was relatively low and therefore manageable.

However, as the tool's popularity began to take off with the uptake of remote working, certain issues started to present themselves, such as those related to the security of VPNs, as well as disaster recovery (DR) limitations, slow connection speeds, bandwidth constraints, configuration and overall management complexity, and cost. 

Due to these constraints, the latest survey found that respondents were looking into or already using alternatives to VPNs, in particular software-defined perimeter (SDP) solutions for remote workers. 18% have implemented SDP since 2020, and a further 39% are considering doing so within the next six to twelve months.

Boxley explained that "traditional perimeter security methods like VPNs are struggling to keep up with the increasingly heterogeneous computing landscape," adding that "The basic castle moat functionality of VPNs, while useful in the past, is no longer sufficient to protect organizations in today's complex digital environment."

On the other hand, “SDP's Zero Trust network access tunnels offer application-level segmentation and invisibility to untrusted access, eliminating the risk of lateral network attacks that are common with VPNs and reducing the need for complicated firewall policies. This makes SDP the safer choice for organizations looking to move operations across different clouds and secure IoT devices.”

Lewis Maddison
Reviews Writer

Lewis Maddison is a Reviews Writer for TechRadar. He previously worked as a Staff Writer for our business section, TechRadar Pro, where he had experience with productivity-enhancing hardware, ranging from keyboards to standing desks. His area of expertise lies in computer peripherals and audio hardware, having spent over a decade exploring the murky depths of both PC building and music production. He also revels in picking up on the finest details and niggles that ultimately make a big difference to the user experience.