A VPN is simply a way to connect remotely to a network through a secure connection. This is extremely useful for companies and organisations whose employees need to connect to their main server from abroad, or when working from home.
VPNs also have other uses for individuals who want to protect their privacy, as using a properly configured VPN provides an encrypted connection, making it extremely difficult for your ISP or anyone else to monitor your web content or know your true location.
Still, not all VPNs are made equal. If you’re running older VPN hardware, it may be time to upgrade and replace. In this article you’ll discover the five top reasons why you should do so right away.
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1. Too much trust
Traditional VPNs work by authorizing users to access a business network. They are then free to use whatever network resources they wish and run any applications. This level of trust means that anyone who connects to your VPN can usually access any files or programs they wish on your network.
Bad actors could easily do this simply by compromising any one of the devices used to connect to your VPN server. This has become easier for hackers to do as more employees have started working from home and more offices have “BYOD” (bring your own device”) policies. Buying and distributing company devices for every person usually isn’t cost-effective.
Legacy VPNs also have little support for “zero trust” network access models where users have permission to access only the resources they need.
2. Slow speeds
Legacy VPNs can be slow. This isn’t surprising given that all internet traffic is being routed through a handful of servers - or even just one in some cases. This is particularly noticeable if you or your colleagues are using older hardware or network devices.
On the other hand a Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solution provides access to specific services and/or applications, unlike a VPN which gives access to the entire network. With such an approach speed limitations can be overcome, by making a simple switch, yet retaining almost all of the benefits a VPN provides. ZTNA also provides an additional layer of security after a user has been authenticated as the access to a specific service can be governed by additional policies such as device posture check (DPC) and context-based requirements like location or time of day.
Furthermore, utilizing a ZTNA solution users or companies don’t have to rely on their own hardware, since the resources can be hosted in the cloud. Having resources in the cloud allows the use of more powerful machines, quicker access and finally easier scalability.
3. Setup woes
We’ve already discussed the huge post-covid surge in work from home employees. Scaling a VPN may be more cumbersome, as IT staff would be required to go through a tedious process of setting up VPNs individually for potentially each user in a company. A legacy VPN requires you to backhaul traffic, which slows down connectivity and increases the potential for bottlenecks during high traffic times.
Contrast that with the granular, flexible and context-aware policies that ZTNA provides along with Device Posture Checks that can stop insecure devices from landing in your network.
While there may be a management burden for IT when it comes to setting up a ZTNA for the first time, the fact that after the initial setup has been made ZTNA allows easy scalability, makes it more streamlined than a VPN approach. If each person needs to connect to a corporate VPN, especially using their home devices this means that they’ll need to download and set up special software.
Being outside the office also means that IT staff can’t simply sit at their desk and enter the VPN configuration for them. If set up incorrectly, the connection may fail or be compromised.
A ZTNA solution still requires a piece of software to sit on the client side but it's more seamless and provides better performance since connection gateways can be all over the world instead of a handful of locations.
4. Bandwidth overload
Most devices using VPNs are connected at all times, even though VPNs were never originally designed for continuous use. If everyone connects to the VPN server each time they use their device, this will consume bandwidth. If employees are connecting from home they’re likely to use their device for personal reasons such as streaming online videos, which will place greater strain on your network.
You can reduce the chance of bandwidth overload by adding more VPN servers closer to where various users are located. Companies and organisations with multiple offices around the world sometimes set up additional gateways to create a site to site VPN to share resources (and network load) throughout the entire infrastructure. But this requires a greater investment in hardware, something that a cloud-based ZTNA solution avoids.
ZTNA offers more functionality, better access speeds, is light-weight, more secure and manageable compared to VPN. Therefore, the move from VPN to ZTNA by users and businesses is a no brainer.
It seems that cloud based applications will be used into the future, with their adoption only growing, so making a switch to an encompassing solution can also provide some future proofing benefits. With no hardware to worry about, IT teams have more bandwidth to focus on other parts of the business.
Fairly recently, the trend of combining ZTNA with Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solutions puts the entire approach on steroids, making it more scalable for corporate WANs, while maintaining enterprise-grade security.
The recent upsurge in VPN use has since many organisations struggling to catch up. While it’s possible to add more servers, set up site-to-site VPNs, switch to more efficient protocols and enforce device policies to reduce network load this is extremely costly and time consuming.
Most VPN server software also isn’t specifically designed for enterprise-grade security, meaning network admins will have to manually add specific network monitoring and security tools every time they add a new device to the network.
The legacy of VPNs
VPNs have been around since the Internet went mainstream and definitely have their uses. However, if you want to find ways to allow people to connect securely and collaborate on projects VPNs have been superseded by better solutions.
Having DPC and other granular approaches allows admins to ensure that the network's security and integrity will not be compromised. Moreover, ZTNA doesn’t allow compromises when it comes to speed and security, which is a high priority for today’s businesses.
To conclude, moving from a VPN to a ZTNA solution should be considered by anyone looking to speed up their work online, while maintaining high levels of security.
Choosing a legacy VPN places your data at risk and could cause performance issues further down the line. Consider instead moving to cloud-based storage and applications, which are faster and handle authentication/security for you.
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