Not so long ago, it was a fair assumption that what we did in the privacy of our own homes remained in the privacy of our own homes.
But lately, most of us are all too aware that this assumption does not always apply, especially when it comes to the Internet. No shortage of news stories (or books, or movies) have reached us highlighting top-level security failures as well as flagrant online privacy abuses committed by big businesses, private hackers, even our own government. In turn, the security responses to these abuses have been multiform, and foremost among these responses has been the advent of virtual private networks, or VPNs.
VPNs create private networks within shared ones, ensuring that our online activity is safely cloaked from public view. Think of them as tightly muffled, darkly tinted phone booths nestled comfortably within the vast, swarming marketplace of the Internet, allowing the users inside those booths to connect to other Internet entities with utmost anonymity. You don’t have to be someone with something to hide to see how useful this anonymity can be, nor is it necessarily a mark of paranoia to prefer that your online activity remain hidden from general scrutiny.
Some of us just like the peace of mind that comes from knowing that what we do behind closed doors remains our business and ours alone. And for most users a commercial vpn provider will more than facilitate this peace of mind. But for small businesses, additional protection is required, particularly once they begin to expand. This is where remote access VPNs come into play.
A remote access VPN works more like a point-to-point tunnel, securely connecting only certain users (employees, for example, but also partners and contractors) to a specific location within the aforementioned marketplace (the private network of a small business) from a remote location (anywhere in the world). Much like a traditional VPN, the remote access variety also encrypts the data that passes through it, guaranteeing that only those with permission to view that data have access to it.
This type of VPN serves several key functions:
1) It secures communications within the business by blocking everyone outside of it
2) Increases productivity by expanding the network and applications of the business
3) Enhances the flexibility of the business by minimizing its cost of communications.
Many small businesses opt for these remote access VPNs, which secure data that cannot be secured by other methods like SSID, rather than set up WANs via dedicated leased lines, as those methods are not as cost effective.
VPNs are also scalable, capable of adapting to the rapidly evolving needs of most small businesses as they occur. As a result, a regular “rip-and-redo” is not typically necessary to ensure that security keeps up with the changing dimensions of the business itself.
Remote access VPNs are made to provide employees with a convenient, private connection to their business resources from anywhere at anytime. As a business grows to include branch offices, these offices can likewise connect to the central corporate network, enabling a degree of secure intercommunication that is impossible in any other scenario. The productivity and security advantages to be gained from this feature are obvious, and in the increasingly online world in which we live, can sometimes mean the difference between a business that is flourishing and protected and one that is vulnerable to any prying eye.