Cybercriminals target small businesses as much as big ones. It doesn’t make the news as much, but it’s still happening. Adding to the complexity, small businesses cannot afford a good IT team meaning they can be in serious danger when an attack happens.
Making things even more complicated, the post-COVID-19 remote work trend means the attack surface for small businesses is growing. Now, more than ever, small businesses face a unique problem: providing remote access to employees worldwide while ensuring security is not compromised.
To do this, they need a VPN.
A virtual private network is a technology that ensures a safer internet connection by encrypting your traffic, thereby ensuring safe remote access to cloud resources or on-prem servers when you’re off-prem. A VPN does this by routing your traffic through a private server before sending it to the destination, which gives you an extra line of defense against a cyber attack.
To do their duties effectively, your remote employees have to have access to your on-prem resources. Even nonremote employees may need access to company resources on the cloud. To access these resources, they must send queries to the servers holding them.
Generally, sending queries to a remote server is risky business because these queries may be intercepted and compromised by threat actors. For businesses, the risks increase exponentially as they have valuable data to protect, such as – customer information, trade secrets, etc. Therefore, safe access to remote resources without compromising the integrity of these resources becomes paramount.
A VPN ensures this safe access by encrypting your queries and sending them to a remote server. The remote server then sends them to the intended server on your behalf. This encryption renders your queries or their responses useless to anybody without a decryption key (which, of course, is provided to your device by the VPN). So even if these queries are intercepted, they cannot be read.
To a threat actor, small businesses are like low-hanging fruits because they generally do not have the capacity and resources to prioritize security. This perception means that small businesses suffer more attacks than enterprises. Therefore, a VPN becomes imperative for the following reasons.
A VPN provides a secure connection by encrypting your traffic, ensuring that nobody online can pry into your business. It also ensures that only authorized users can access your network, thus adding an extra layer of security.
With a VPN, an employee can gain secure remote access to on-prem and cloud resources without compromising the network. This ensures that employees can safely work from anywhere in the world.
A business VPN from Perimeter 81 is easy to administer. It allows you to add and remove users at scale without worrying about any hardware or complex network configuration changes.
VPNs, particularly the old hardware kinds, are notorious for taking up a lot of bandwidth. They’ll slow your connection speed to an extent. This slow connection is a consequence of the congestion from routing all traffic through a VPN. Usually, this slowness is solved by routing only essential traffic through your VPN to reduce bandwidth consumption.
With cloud-based solutions like the Perimeter81 ZTNA, you never have to choose which traffic to route through your VPN because congestion is not a concern.
To implement a VPN, you can either host your own VPN or lease one from a vendor and set it up according to your business needs. Either way, it is a complex process and requires the services of a cybersecurity professional.
Cloud-based solutions make this a lot easier. With Perimeter81’s ZTNA, you do not have to own or lease any hardware. Getting a VPN becomes as simple as signing up for a VPN account.
There may come a time when you need to expand your infrastructure to accommodate business growth or new security realities. Scaling up legacy VPNs may be impossible because they may be incompatible with the latest additions to the infrastructure.
This is not a concern for cloud-based VPNs. With Perimeter81’s ZTNA, scaling up is simply adding extra accounts for your new employees.
So how do you set up a VPN for your small business? What do you have to look out for to ensure that your business VPN functions properly? Here’s a step-by-step process you should follow.
For legacy business VPNs, the components needed for setup include a router, a server, a tunneling protocol, and client software.
With a cloud-based solution, however, you do not need to acquire any of these, except for a router, which may be needed in cases where you have to connect all endpoints in a specific location to the internet. Perimeter81 only requires you to sign up; the rest is taken care of!
Protocols determine how to route traffic between your network and the VPN server. Some protocols offer more security than speed, and vice versa. You must have options to accommodate all business eventualities.
IPsec is one of the oldest and most trusted. It authenticates and encrypts traffic and is one of the fastest and most secure protocols out there.
OpenVPN runs on the TCP or UDP internet protocol, depending on your needs. The TCP protocol is better for a more stable and secure connection, while the UDP protocol prioritizes speed.
WireGuard is a next-generation protocol that performs well in all areas. It is stable and uses robust encryption to provide a secure connection. It is the fastest of all the protocols we mentioned here.
Now it’s time to choose a client software to use. It is often better to use your VPN provider’s software. With legacy business VPN, however, there are cases where your provider’s software will not be compatible with your devices. In that case, you can choose another client software.
A cloud-based VPN saves you the stress of having to choose in the first place, as it is built to be compatible with a wide range of devices and operating systems.
Once you install your VPN software, it’s important to test it to ensure everything is working correctly. Here are the tests you should do:
This test checks whether your IP address remains the same before and after connecting to a VPN. If your IP doesn’t change, then the VPN isn’t working correctly.
This test checks whether all your DNS traffic goes through the VPN servers instead of some going directly to your ISP servers. Any traffic that goes straight to your ISP servers will not be encrypted and, therefore, vulnerable to interception and attacks.
Bottom line, you want to make sure that you can connect to company resources using the assigned IP or a secured tunnel that you set up.
Congrats! If your VPN passes all these tests, then it is ready to use.
Choosing a VPN for your business and not sure which one to pick? Here are some questions you should ask.
Does it offer a wide range of protocols to choose from? Are these protocols suitable for the likely eventualities in your business? What kind of encryption does the VPN offer?
The protocol will determine the kind of encryption a VPN offers, which is vital because encryption guarantees that the content of your traffic cannot be read by anybody else but you and your destination server. Therefore, you must understand the kind of encryption a VPN uses before purchasing.
How many gateways can it connect concurrently, and in which regions, without substantially slowing down the connection? It is crucial to understand how many simultaneous connections it supports before purchasing. The last thing you want is for it to crash and have to migrate to another software.
Does it have a good number of servers? Are these servers located in the areas where you have resources? The more servers a VPN has, over a wide geographic area, the better for you.
It often means that there’ll be a VPN server near every destination you’re sending traffic to, ensuring a faster connection (low latency) than when the VPN and destination servers are very far apart.
Make sure that the VPN can grow with your business. Can you easily remove or add users to it? Can you easily adjust the VPN to the latest realities of your business?
Private or dedicated IPs ensure that you can create an allowlist in a zero-trust environment where access to resources is granted on the basis of need. This feature further enhances security by ensuring only authorized users can access a network segment or resource.
Looking for the right VPN solution for your business? Look no further. We’ve got the latest technology to help you grant access to all your employees securely, regardless of whether they are on-prem or off-prem. Our security suite includes web filtering, malware protection, and a firewall. Book a demo today.