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How to Choose the Best VPN for Your Business?

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Choosing the best Virtual Private Network for your needs requires attention to detail. Understanding what functionality will meet your requirements and which additional services are available can make the task much easier. A good VPN should be designed to fulfill your business objectives with the features and functionality you require. Here are some helpful tips to help you identify the right type of VPN for your business.

1. Evaluate and Understand Your Needs

To get the best VPN for your business, you need to look beyond the marketing hype to really see how the product works for you at the organizational level. What do you want to achieve by deploying a VPN? Are you looking to provide remote access for employees, set up communication channels with branch offices, or form an extended workplace? What level of secure do you need? What type of infrastructure do you have, or will you need to set up from scratch? Does your in-house staff have the necessary expertise to manage and maintain the network? Make sure you understand your needs before spending time and money on VPN.

2. Get to Grips with the Different Types of VPNs

VPNs can be categorized into two major types: IP-based VPNs and managed VPNs or QoS VPNs. IP-based VPNs allow you a lot of flexibility, but you have to build this type of VPN yourself or engage an IT professional. Because IP-based VPNs connect private networks through the internet, they are cheaper, simpler and more flexible than other ways of connecting. They offer an ideal option for secure and cost-effective remote access, as well as all internet- and intranet-based communications, providing a very easy and cheap way to extend your network across the globe.
Managed VPNs are supplied by service providers who supply businesses with network security over the internet. Managed service providers supply the backbone over which confidential information flows and the level of service is guaranteed. A business will contract a service provider to fill certain information security needs that are met more cost effectively by outsourcing than by purchasing and supporting equipment in-house. This sort of arrangement makes good economic sense for small businesses, especially since service providers specialize in encryption technologies that many small companies might not have the resources to support.

3. Understand the Technology Basics

This is the part that might scare you, but you need to understand enough (and it’s not difficult to do so) in order to make an informed choice. Firstly, you should know the different kinds of protocols used to establish a VPN to choose the one best suited for your needs. The most notable of these are: PPTP (Point-to-point Tunneling Protocol), L2F (Layer 2 Forwarding), L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol), IPSec (Internet Protocol Security), and OpenVPN. Of these, IPSec offers the most reliable security features, and that’s one of the reasons why it has already established itself as the dominant protocol. Nonetheless, it would be wise to research each of these protocols, and have a good understanding of what each of them has to offer when it comes to data security and privacy.
Another aspect of Virtual Private Network technology that you need to consider is the different classes of VPN implementations, which include: operating system-based VPNs (e.g. Windows 2000), router-based systems (e.g. Cisco), firewall-based systems (e.g. Checkpoint), and standalone systems (e.g. Cisco). It is important that you are aware of the advantages and disadvantages associated with each one of them so you can make the most appropriate choice, depending on your specific circumstances. Generally, standalone VPNs tend to offer the best flexibility and performance.
Lastly, don’t forget to take into account various additional and complementary forms of authentication, such as certificates of authentication, biometric devices, and tokens (e.g. smartcards). You can consult your security VAR about these.

4. Consider Scalability, Flexibility and Interoperability

As with any other IT system, it’s vital that you deploy a VPN that can adapt to your needs and grows as your organization grows in complexity. This means you need to have a keen foresight to help you choose the right VPN, and know the potential future impact of your choice on your organization. This way, you will be able to avoid the frustrations and costs associated with changing or upgrading VPN somewhere down the road. A scalable VPN product will allow you to easily implement VPN as a pilot project, and to roll it out to the rest of your organization as required or when the need arises. Choosing a flexible product will ensure you have a VPN that can cater for a wide variety of applications and changing circumstances. Also, make sure the product you choose interoperates well with other external content and process services.

5. Put the Products to the Test

Don’t just buy into any VPN product out there. Test drive products to assess their impact on your network as well as their performance, scalability, flexibility and interoperability. Testing will also enable you to find out about the hardware and software products that you need for your network.

6. Evaluate Ease of Use

Choose a VPN that is not only easy to deploy throughout your organization, but also easy to use. An easy-to-use VPN will result in lower costs to your business, and also meet less resistance from employees, partners, clients, and other users. To this end, choose and deploy a system that allows for easy and effective administration of the network, enabling you to remotely and centrally manage the various components, set policies, update configurations and cope with future changes in the network configuration.

7. Look for Added Value Offerings

Once you’ve identified the best type and class of VPN for your business, you should evaluate various products on the market to determine which one offers the most in terms of value offerings, particularly reliability and the total cost per user. This means you’ll need to look beyond the direct cost of purchasing and deploying the product, and consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) to your business.

July 13, 2015

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