Using VPN for Remote Work

by

November 30, 2021

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are the backbone of most remote work security strategies. But the tools for implementing them are changing all the time. Here’s our breakdown of what you need to consider. 

Remote work has revolutionized the way the world does business—a trend that only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. And if companies weren’t giving any thought to their remote access security before, they certainly are now. When remote work surged, most turned to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to create a secured, encrypted data channel for remote workers. Still other companies ditched their server rooms and on-premise systems, leaving their secure connections to cloud based providers like Microsoft Windows 365 Cloud PC, or other cloud-based software platforms.  

With so many platforms unrolling so many secured private systems, you may be asking: do I still need a VPN for my small or medium-sized business? 

For companies with all their software and data handling in the cloud, the answer is no. Your cloud provider will provide a secured channel. 

But, at this time, the majority of our clients have some sort of on-premise servers that need protecting. In this case, the answer is definitely yes, you will need VPN protection for those on- premise functions. If you don’t want hackers hitching a ride every time your employees log on at Starbucks, you’ll need some kind encryption and credentialing to protect that flank.   

But, before we get a bit too far into the weeds, let’s get down to some definitions. 

VPN for Remote Work: What Is It?

What is a VPN? Put simply, it is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that protects your connection to and from a computer or network. Think of it this way:  when your employee logs into their company computer and connects to the VPN, it creates an encrypted “tunnel” of access. Hackers cannot view the transmission data. Your employee’s original IP address  is not visible, either. It’s as if you’ve plugged your computer directly into your company’s network, even if you’re very far away. 

Fail to have proper encryption, and it’s like opening a door to hackers, and telling them to come on in. It really is that simple. But how you achieve that level of VPN protection is a bit more of a complex question. You can purchase many different VPN tools, either as a separate service, or baked into software platforms like Microsoft Windows 365 Cloud PC. But no matter what kind of VPN product you buy, you’ll find that they tend to break down into two major types of VPNs.  

What Are the Major Types of VPNs?

 So, now that we’ve answered the question what is a VPN, let’s talk about the different types. The type of VPN you use will depend on whether you’re creating a secure channel between offices, or whether you’re getting VPN for from home or remote access.First, there are Site-to-Site Virtual Private Networks. When an organization has branch offices in different buildings, cities or even countries, this type of VPN connects the locations. This router to router network encrypts signal going back and forth between routers. A site-to-site intranet VPN encrypts information going back and forth between two company offices. Similarly, a site-to-site extranet VPN is a secure channel between a company and an outside source, like a vendor.

Second, there’s the type of VPN for from home access, the predictably named Remote Access Virtual Private Network. This type of remote access VPN allows your remote workers access to your network and all its files and resources wherever they are. Your remote employees log into the system and are granted access with the proper identity verifications. When using their company issued device, they will have a secure channel to work on, both for working in your network platforms, and surfing the internet. 

So, with all that in mind, how should you configure a VPN service at your company? Here’s the type of systems we’re most often using. 

What Kind of VPN Systems Do We Generally Recommend to Clients?

In the past, it was often necessary to have complex systems to execute a VPN network. But, as technology has improved, VPN capabilities are starting to be included in cloud-based platforms and firewall/anti-virus technology. 

This is especially true for companies that have fully migrated to the cloud. They no longer have corporate server rooms, or, perhaps never had them at all. For instance, if your company is running completely in Microsoft Windows 365 Cloud PC, the act of logging onto their system creates a very sophisticated Virtual Private Network. They handle encryption, verification, security updates and storage. And they do it all with a zero-trust framework, meaning that identity keys are being continuously checked and rechecked the entire time an employee is working in the system. For companies fully in the cloud, we usually recommend the client have strong anti-virus software on their employee’s machines. We also encourage them to access the network primarily on their corporate-issued devices. 

Most of our clients, however, usually have internal servers or networks that need protection. This is true even if parts of their business run on cloud-based software. In this case, we usually recommend a hybrid approach that starts with their company firewalls. Modern firewalls have robust remote access VPN capabilities baked into their systems. This, paired with multi-factor verification, will cover most VPN needs. The software platforms you use will also have their own signins and security protocols, which adds another layer of security. 

The explanation we’ve given here is a bit over simplified. Most clients require a comprehensive exam of their security systems to determine where their protections need to be place, and how their network needs to be configured. But this, in general, covers what VPN for remote work looks like for most small and medium-sized businesses. 

Where Can I Go to Learn More about VPN for Remote Work?

 Iconic IT has lots of resources to help you explore VPN for remote work.Our recent blogs discuss the level of security smaller businesses can expect from VPNs, as well as data safety for a remote workforce. And of course, we encourage you to check out all our cornerstone content on the modern workplace journey to the cloud

If you’re looking to take a check out the full range of services we have around modern security and the cloud, check out our modern workplace essentials kit! This free collection of resources covers everything you’ll need to keep your company safe, including information about VPN for remote work. 

And, as always, if your company is in one of our service areas and would like a free security consultation, contact us. We’d love to talk to you! 

Susan Gosselin is a Senior Content Writer for Integris. A career communicator and business journalist, she's written extensively on IT topics and trends for IT service providers like Iconic IT and ProCoders Ukraine, as well as business publications such as Technologyadvice.com, Datamation.com, The Lane Report and many others. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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