Enterprise VPN : There's a minefield out there

After all, the benefits that come with selecting the right business VPN for your enterprise could mean the difference between surviving and thriving in the current climate - or sinking without trace.

Before examining the things all organisations should consider in making their selection, let’s have a quick look at what makes a VPN so valuable to modern organisations.

First, it’s inherently secure. A VPN runs separate to the public internet. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) due to be implemented in May 2018, this is great news for organisations responsible for handling customer data.

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Second, VPNs supports collaboration. According to the London-based management consultancy, Strategy Analytics, one in three workers are expected to work remotely. That means a secure, flexible solution such as VPN is extremely important for organisations that want to futureproof their workforce and put collaboration at the heart of how they work.

Third, a VPN improves productivity. It goes without saying that when employees can access the corporate network seamlessly across SIM-enabled laptops, mobiles, tablets and more, getting the job done becomes quicker and easier, creating additional efficiencies for the business.

But with so many products on the market, what should your organisation be asking itself when choosing an enterprise VPN service?

1. Partnership

Organisations should choose a VPN provider that offers a partnership in the journey towards digital transformation.

It’s not just about a type of connectivity, such as IPVPN, but understanding the bigger picture. Nobody knows better what a business is trying to achieve than the business themselves. It’s very important that they tell providers the outcome they’re trying to achieve rather than getting hung-up on how they get there.

That includes things like how their employees are working, what applications they use, how data is managed and how the business intends to scale. But it should also be other wider-reaching objectives.

They might be surprised by what providers can solve for them. And also how they can help them deliver those business outcomes not only with a VPN service, but other products and services as well.

Don’t just stop at the technology bit. Don’t just tell a provider what you are trying to achieve with your new website or your new application development or your migration to Azure or AWS in the Cloud. It’s about the full profile - and the best providers will be able to deliver the best results for you by becoming your partner in helping to achieve your overall goals.

2. Collaboration

VPNs are all about secure collaboration so this should be a key consideration for any possible provider.  As we’ve seen already, remote working is a massive trend and looks set to grow as technology enables staff to work from afar with ever greater efficiency.

VPNs are fundamentally about getting your people to work together no matter where they are and on whatever platforms and applications they are using, Ask potential providers what they are going to do to facilitate people wherever and whenever they might be online.

After all, the VPN is just the beginning. Ask your supplier what they’ll do to get your field workers online seamlessly.  Ask how they’ll work with you to prioritise traffic. Ask how they’ll manage your network for you. Ask how they’ll support the tools your business is built around.

Before selecting an enterprise VPN, think about the additional services your provider can offer. There are a range of products that help you get the most out of your IPVPN. Field workers will benefit from services that connect directly to an IPVPN and allows remote workers to securely access their corporate network from any connected device without needing to manually logon. Selecting an enterprise VPN built around collaboration can help streamline your procurement and third-party providers.

3. Security

Organisations handling customer data need to take appropriate measures to protect it. When GDPR is introduced next year, organisations that suffer a breach and are found to be non-compliant face fines of up to 4% of global turnover up to 100 million Euros. Tightening security has never been more important.

When choosing a VPN service, security is paramount. How is the provider going to protect your people and assets? VPN is inherently secure because it is separate to other networks on the internet, however, there are other things that your provider can do to help with security as well.

End to end ownership provides greater certainty and reliability so check who owns the network. Do they have the knowledge, skills and reach to fix any faults should they develop? The more they’re in control, the less prone to third-party faults the network should be. An extensive public sector client list is a good sign to look for – those clients typically require the most secure and resilient solutions.

4. Keep an eye on the future

In an ever-changing business world, both customers and enterprise VPN providers should have a clear idea of where the organisation is going, and what the future holds. Having a network that will support future growth should be a key consideration.

Businesses should really be thinking about the tools they use and how their provider will support them. Buyers should be challenging their providers to say, ‘This is what we are using today. How are you going to ensure that we can continue to achieve this in the future?’ 

All businesses should be future road-mapping and taking an unconstrained, transformative view of technology. With the advent of new Software Defining technologies organisations shouldn’t be ‘put off buying an IPVPN in the hope they will find a cheaper option. If you’re not sure on what your digital future holds, then you should ask your provider to come up with that detail, or to work in partnership with you to figure it out.

Choose someone to work as a partner, not a provider, when it comes to developing and managing a corporate VPN service. This fundamentally changes how businesses operate and allows for better support for customers on their digital transformation journey.

Andrew Halliwell

Andrew Halliwell is the product and transformation director at Virgin Media Business. He is a commercial, product strategy, enterprise sales and market development leader. He is also an experienced director with roles spanning sales, marketing, product strategy, business transformation and an enviable 15+ year track record of exceeding targets.