Contrary to VPN, ZTNA helps prevent attacks such as credential stuffing as it leverages the principle of least privilege (PoLP).

What is ZTNA?

ZTNA is based on the Zero Trust principle of “never trust, always verify” which means that all devices should have strict access policies and tighter security controls. This extra layer of security greatly minimizes lateral movement and other malicious attacks. 

Since 2020, there have been over 193 billion credential stuffing attacks. Let that number sink in for a moment because these types of attacks can easily be prevented with better security measures and by enforcing stricter company policies. 

ZTNA helps prevent attacks such as credential stuffing as it leverages the principle of least privilege (PoLP). Users are now given granular access based on specifically defined roles and permissions. This increased level of flexibility has given ZTNA a clear advantage over legacy VPN hardware or has it?  

Since the start of the pandemic, 88% of companies have migrated employees to remote work. The pandemic also gave the corporate VPN a strong use case as VPN usage skyrocketed drastically during this period with no plans of slowing down any time soon. 

It is predicted that by 2027, the VPN marketplace will reach a value of $107.5 billion. Has ZTNA officially replaced the traditional VPN?

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) enables you to create an encrypted connection or secure tunnel over a device and the internet.

A VPN in the business world is used to secure remote access and protect company resources. They are also used to protect remote workers from eavesdropping attacks when connecting over unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots.  

But before we go into the limitations of a traditional VPN, it’s important to get a better understanding of the history behind them.

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VPN Evolution: From Legacy Solutions to Zero Trust

Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology has been around for over two decades. The first VPN dates back to 1996 when a Microsoft employee named Gurdeep Singh-Pall developed the Peer to Peer Tunneling or Point to Point Protocol (PPTP) as a way to share sensitive data over a secure network via encrypted tunnels. 

At the time, it was seen as a more secure and efficient alternative to using the public internet. PPTP has since become outdated due to many security issues and vulnerabilities found as VPN technology has evolved throughout the years. 

Many consider the OpenVPN protocol to be a far superior upgrade in terms of security and scalability. There have been other types of VPN protocols which businesses implement with their existing infrastructure for a variety of reasons: 

  • IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) – IPsec is a set of VPN protocols that secure data sent over public networks through encrypted connections. All data sent over the network is broken into packets and relies on a key exchange between connected devices in order to decrypt messages. An IPsec VPN helps organizations secure cloud resources and remote access. 
  • Internet Key Exchange Protocol Version 2 (IKEv2) – IKEv2 works perfectly with IPsec in terms and offers a higher level of encryption than other protocols (256-bit encryption and AES). It also establishes faster connections and eats up less bandwidth. Two very important factors.  
  • Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) – The Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol was built specifically for Windows and developed by Microsoft. It uses the 443 port or HTTPS to connect to the server and relies on 2048-bit SSL/TLS encryption. SSTP can bypass most firewalls but has a slower connection due to the high level of encryption. 
  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) – An SSL VPN provides secure remote access to the corporate network and to web portals through SSL secured tunnels. The use case for the SSL VPN has grown in recent years due to the new dynamic work from home model where unsecure connections have led to major data breaches.

Legacy VPN Limitations

Although the traditional VPN has come a long way since its PPTP roots, there have been many roadblocks that exist today. Let’s take a closer look at some of the limitations of a VPN.

Unsecured Network Access

Organizations that are unable to securely connect employees, devices, and applications within the network are susceptible to data breaches. Users who have access to an unsecured network can potentially expose critical data that is residing on the network through their devices, which can then be accessed by cybercriminals. 

There are over 2,500 internal security breaches in the U.S. on a daily basis with the numbers expected to rise as more employees ditch the office for the beach and work remotely. Insider threats have accounted for $15.4 million annually in 2022, making the use case for Zero Trust a lot more convincing.

Performance Issues    

Another common limitation of legacy VPN solutions is their impact on network performance. When data is encrypted and sent through a VPN, it may take longer to transfer. This can cause performance issues for applications and systems that rely on the network for communication.

In addition to slower speeds, legacy VPNs can also be resource-intensive, which can lead to increased latency and decreased bandwidth. This can cause problems for organizations that rely on the network for critical operations.

Heavy Bandwidth Usage 

Legacy VPNs are also bandwidth-intensive. This means that they will compete with all other applications and processes on the network for available bandwidth, causing decreased performance of other resources.

Another issue is the travel time of a request being sent when connecting to the VPN from various locations across the globe. If Alex is based in New York and wants to connect to Los Angeles, he might have to wait as the proximity of the data center he is connecting to is not around the corner. Important information may get stuck in transit, especially if the point of presence (PoP) is out of range.

Lack of Security

Another issue is the travel time of a request being sent when connecting to the VPN from various locations across the globe. If Alex is based in New York and wants to connect to Los Angeles, he might have to wait as the proximity of the data center he is connecting to is not around the corner. Important information may get stuck in transit, especially if the point of presence (PoP) is out of range.

Difficult to Configure

Another limitation of legacy VPN solutions is their complexity. Legacy VPN can be difficult to configure, which means that IT teams are required to spend a significant amount of time and resources on training. In addition, organizations may be required to hire consultants with specialized knowledge in order to properly configure a legacy system.

SDP vs. VPN: Which Security Solution is Better?

When organizations are looking at new ways to secure their networks, they will often look at the differences between a Software-Defined Perimeter and VPN when mapping out the security plan. While both security measures can be effective, each solution comes with its own unique benefits and limitations.

One of the main benefits of an SDP is that it does not require a VPN infrastructure to function and relies on Zero Trust to restrict access across the network.

The level of granular access of an SDP is far superior to a traditional VPN. The key differentiator is the scalability an SDP provides as an organization grows. 

Traditional VPNs must be manually configured and maintained. Things get very expensive quickly, particularly if there are multiple branch locations and physical hardware must be set up by a qualified technician.

External IT consultants must be taken into consideration to save time on travel, but add to the overall costs. So, the clear winner here is an SDP. 

Perimeterless Security: Why Organizations Are Making The Shift to Zero Trust

When organizations are looking at new ways to secure their networks, they often consider the benefits of perimeter-less security or a Zero Trust approach.

While VPNs have been traditionally used as a way to create an encrypted connection between two systems, this method hampers productivity and creates barriers for employees working outside the office with unsecured devices. 

Zero Trust policies help secure remote devices by enforcing a more advanced user-centric identity authorization process. Admins have the ability to restrict certain cloud resources that might be deemed out of bounds for a particular department.

These policies also help detect anomalies and help prevent internal threats.  

In addition to increasing productivity and eliminating security barriers, Zero Trust policies also provide organizations more control over how they share sensitive data with partners and customers.

These improved access controls help prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to sensitive information.

ZTNA vs VPN: Understanding The Differences

Low visibility across environmentsFull visibility on all environment On-prem and Cloud
Very Limited Users, Security, and Network ManagementAdvanced Centralized Management and Gannular Control of all Networking and Security
Lack of remote user securitySecure global access with Multi-factor authentication (2FA), SSO, and Device Posture Check
Unable to segment NetworkNetwork micro-segmentation
No IdP or custom access rulesUser-centric and role-based policies
very Limited Network activity reportsSeamless auditing and reporting
Implementation can be costlyCost-effective and compatible with all systems
Agent Access only (can’t secure Third-party Access)Agent and Agentless Access (can Secure Third-party Access)

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Zero Trust vs Network Access Control (NAC)

As more people begin to work remotely, identity and access management (IAM) is becoming increasingly important. This is because systems need to be able to distinguish between different types of users and allow access for some while blocking it from others.

IAM is used to manage user identities and access permissions within an organization. It can also help reduce OpEx costs as it is cloud-based and extremely scalable.

Cloud providers such as AWS offer AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to control who has access to use cloud-based resources.

IT or network administrators typically have full control and decide who gets access to what, especially when working remotely. 83% of cloud breaches are the result of access vulnerabilities.

IAM is important for remote workers because it allows them to securely access sensitive information when outside of their office and minimize the attack surface drastically

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a security model that extends the principles of zero-trust security to the network. Under this framework, all users and devices are treated as untrusted until they can be verified and granted access to authorized resources.

NAC or Network Access Control focuses on endpoint security and uses very high levels of encryption to prevent zero-day attacks and other vulnerabilities. However, it does not compare with ZTNA in terms of policy enforcement and securing remote devices, NAC solutions do not offer admins the ability to segment a network, which can be quite challenging in an enterprise setting and for remote workers.   

Unlike traditional security models that rely on a trusted perimeter, Zero Trust Network Access takes a decentralized approach to security. This means that there is no single point of failure and that all users and devices are treated equally. 

By verifying users and devices before granting access, Zero Trust Network Access can help organizations reduce the risk of cyberattacks. You also have the ability to segment your network by user roles and permissions using the principle of least privilege.

ZTNA Use Cases

ZTNA has grown in popularity and become a lot more relevant due to its ability to secure remote devices and many other benefits, including increased productivity and the elimination of security barriers. 

ZTNA relies on identity-centric authentication and authorization controls to verify users and devices before granting access to resources.

This is especially important in today’s BYOD interconnected remote workforce, where 67% of employees use their personal devices for work. ZTNA ensures that all devices are secured, regardless of where an employee or contractor is located. 

Human error is another concern. 88% of security breaches are the result of human error. ZTNA greatly reduces the chance of human error as policies are more fine-tuned and enforced.

Here are 5 Network Security Mistakes Your Employees are Still Making in 2022. These mistakes can cost your organization millions with a Zero Trust approach. The 4th mistake in particular gives ZTNA a very strong use case.   

Zero Trust Network Access can be used in a variety of settings, including healthcare, finance, education, and government. Some of the most common use cases include:

  • Securing Remote Access – ZTNA can be used to provide secure remote access for employees working from home or on the go.
  • Cloud Access – ZTNA can be used to improve security when using cloud storage or other third-party services.
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – In a BYOD environment, ZTNA can help employees use their own devices to access work resources while still maintaining security.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – As an added layer of security, ZTNA can be used in conjunction with multi-factor authentication to further verify the identity of users and devices.

According to Gartner, by 2023, 60% of enterprises will phase out most of their remote access VPNs in favor of ZTNA. Will you be one of them?

What Are The Costs of a ZTNA Solution?

The costs of implementing a ZTNA solution will vary depending on the size and complexity of your organization. However, the good news is that ZTNA solutions are typically more affordable than traditional security solutions, such as VPNs.

In addition to the cost of implementing a ZTNA solution, you will also need to budget for ongoing maintenance and updates. However, these costs are also typically lower than the maintenance costs for traditional security solutions.

The main factors to take into consideration when choosing a ZTNA provider are: 

  • The number of licenses you will need 
  • The number of servers and gateways you will need deployed 
  • The number of devices you need to secure 
  • Compliance regulations – This varies by industry 

Other important factors to look for when considering a ZTNA provider include:

  • Split tunneling
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Central cloud management
  • Network auditing & monitoring
  • Automatic Wi-Fi security 
  • IdP integration 

When it comes to ZTNA, there is one name that stands above the rest. Perimeter 81. 

Perimeter 81: Forrester New Wave™ ZTNA Leader

Perimeter 81 was recently named a Forrester New Wave ZTNA Leader. More than just a title. Perimeter 81’s acclaimed ZTNA solution provides organizations of all sizes with a way to secure remote access and cloud storage while maintaining productivity with just a few clicks. 

Perimeter 81 uses the highest level of authentication and authorization controls to verify users and devices before granting access to corporate resources, helping to reduce the risk of cyberattacks. Scale your network security without draining your budget.

Save thousands in annual savings by switching to a ZTNA approach. Automate IT management and secure remote access with ZTNA. Don’t get left behind. Move to the cloud in minutes with Perimeter 81. Get started today.


What is ZTNA?
Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) is a security model that extends the principles of zero-trust security to the network.
What is a VPN?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a security solution that uses encryption and other security protocols to create an encrypted connection between users and enterprise networks.
What is the difference between ZTNA and a VPN?
ZTNA is a security model that extends the principles of zero-trust security to the network and enforces strict policies to access corporate resources, while traditional VPNs are more limited in remote access security.
What is the difference between ZTNA and an SDP? 
Although ZTNA and SDP both incorporate Zero Trust principles, ZTNA offers a more identity-centric approach to authorize users before granting access to company resources. 

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