A business VPN (virtual private network) is a staple technology for remote working and site-to-site private networking. Why? Because Wi-Fi and wired connections are easily hackable thanks to off-the-shelf Wi-Fi pineapples and LAN turtles. These malicious tools intercept unencrypted traffic between an end-user and the business.
Man-in-the-middle (MIM) attacks can also give competitors an unfair advantage. They’ll put your business at risk of ransomware and compromise your supply chain. To mitigate all this, business VPNs encrypt data packets between a user/site and the business.
You may already use a VPN at home, but business VPNs have enterprise features your consumer VPN won’t have. In this article, we’ll take a look at what a business VPN is. I’ll also show you how you can use them to secure your business traffic. First, let’s delve into what a VPN is!
What Is a Business VPN?
A business VPN enables you to connect remotely to a business as if you were on site. You can also use them to connect sites and make them seem like part of one private network.
The main advantage of using a VPN is that it encrypts data packets. For a business VPN, you can do this in 2 ways:
- Encrypts end-user data. This means the VPN server monitors your data as it pushes it to the business. Many VPN suppliers try to hide this from you. They also don’t want you to know they’re logging server connections and temporarily storing data as it passes through the VPN server. We’ll discuss this later, but you’ll need to do some digging when selecting a VPN service.
- Creates an end-point connection where you’re encrypting traffic. This is called a tunnel, and it spans between you and the business. The VPN server sits between the user and the company, but it only relays encrypted traffic.
These two methods are the same if you’re using a business VPN for remote working or site-to-site networking.
Next, we’ll take a look at some business VPN use-cases that’ll show you what a VPN actually does in a business environment.
Benefits of a Business VPN
Working Remotely with Licenses
Business VPNs are useful for running software that the business uses with fixed or floating licenses. For example, you can use CAD software solutions, but only if you have a license. If you access your business network with a VPN, you’ll have access to the floating license pool.
This enables the software to ‘ping’ the license server periodically. That way, it checks that you still have a valid license. If you have a fixed license borrowed from a fixed license pool, then you’ll need to refresh it. If you’re off-site, you can use a VPN to do this.
In short, a business VPN helps you use your business software without separate standalone licenses.
Working Remotely with Files
A business VPN also fools your private network into thinking that you’re accessing files stored in a NAS, site, or cloud-based server. After establishing a VPN connection, you can use hundreds of freeware or proprietary tools to access your files. Yet, remember you can also run commands from your command-line interface (CLI) or terminal.
Many businesses will control files in user-accessible storage and assign policies. As a result, you still can’t access files if your on-site user login doesn’t have access to them.
Remote Access to Servers
Once you have a VPN connection to the business, you can access files and use software. Great, but what if you want to jump onto one of the business servers? First, you establish a business VPN connection. Next, you need to replicate what’s shown on the server’s screen with a software utility.
If you’re running Windows on both machines, the process is easy. In this case, you use Remote Desktop Connection (RDC). If you’re connecting to a Linux system, you could be using Putty and TightVNC to create the connection and get a graphical display; RDC does both.
If you’re working with multiple servers, remember you can save most connection details to save time for multiple servers.
When you’re connecting to a business, the last thing you want is to send and receive unencrypted data packets over the internet. But you’re saying what about HTTPS? After all, it encrypts data between endpoints!
The issue is that HTTPS doesn’t encrypt DNS information. This info can tell others what sites you’re connecting to. HTTPS is still susceptible to MIM attacks and DNS spoofing. In addition, you never know when you may accidentally connect to unencrypted websites. Instead, use a VPN for better all-round security.
When you use a VPN, you can save money on logistics. You’ll also offer flexible business practices that may make the organization leaner. You also can switch to permanently working remotely. That way, you save space needed for the business! Alternatively, you could be implementing desk hot swapping.
That way, teams can work onsite on alternative days or scheduled around projects. The financial savings could significantly boost your net profits.
Reduced Geographical Restrictions
Often, geographic arbitrage pushes businesses to operate in multiple sites. For instance, manufacturing facilities in Asia are common due to the lower worker costs and manufacturing plant overheads. However, if the product is designed for a UK market, then tax incentives may warrant a headquarters in Northern Ireland.
In reality, these measures don’t stop businesses from paying capital gains tax in their home countries. Yet, they can help improve their yearly performance. For businesses that have multiple sites, VPNs can help business productivity.
Many personal VPN users also use VPNs to unblock streaming services unavailable in their own country. That said, many content providers are wise to this practice and take measures to stop a user registered in one country from finding content in another.
- Look for a business VPN service provider that enables you to control and monitor user VPN connections easily in real-time from one console.
- Create a ‘hard’ VPN policy that asks for two-factor authentication to check the user is who they say they are.
- Select a business VPN with automated firewall optimization options like KerioControl to make installation and management of enterprise utilities easy.
Now we’ve gone through the common uses and benefits of a VPN, let’s compare business and personal VPNs.
Business VPNs vs Personal VPNs
By now, you may be wondering What really is the difference between a personal and business VPN?
In reality, they’re fundamentally the same, with the same use potential mentioned above.
That said, business VPNs may have some additional features and enterprise-level services. To understand these benefits, you have to keep in mind that any enterprise needs to ensure 100% uptime and 24/7 live support to resolve issues.
A business can never accept services that don’t offer this, even if it’s at a premium. Let’s take a look at some key business VPN requirements.
6 Core Business VPN Features
Below are 6 core requirements all business VPNs should ideally have.
1. Offers Multiple Server Locations
When you use a VPN, your traffic goes through the VPN server. The better the VPN service provider, the more VPN servers they’ll have in each country. If your business VPN traffic slows down, you can switch to another VPN nearby.
This helps reduce your connection latency. Ensure your VPN has servers where you have business sites. That way, you get local access.
2. Supports Mobile Platforms
Mobile phones with internet capability have been around for decades. Many businesses provide workers with smartphones to help with productivity. Even though these can be part of your private network, you’ll still need a VPN for them. Many business VPN providers have a lightweight VPN app to help encrypt internet traffic.
These mobile offerings shouldn’t be energy-intensive. Otherwise, they’ll excessively drain the battery. Look for a VPN supplier that offers an app version of their desktop solution.
3. Includes a Kill Switch
If your business VPN connection drops, the VPN will stop working. As such, your connection will use the internet conventionally to send and receive data packets automatically. This is obviously a problem! You could be working without a VPN and allowing hackers access to your data. To avoid this, providers typically offer a kill switch feature.
When your VPN connection drops, the kill switch kills all internet traffic. In this case, you can either close your VPN software and use the internet normally or restart the VPN. Usually, this will make it look for a better VPN server for the connection. A kill switch feature promotes better security.
4. Anonymizes DNS
Throughout this article, we’ve discussed data packet encryption. However, most VPN offerings don’t hide DNS queries. Why does it matter? Take a look at what happens the first time you access a website. First, you’ll type in the web address into your browser. Before the website loads, it sends a query for the site’s IP address to a directory naming server. After this, the website sends this query back to your browser. If you don’t clear your cache, the browser will return the IP address it already has.
Anonymous DNS essentially means the DNS query is encrypted or masked. This means if a cybercriminal is eyeballing your data, they can’t see what sites you’re visiting. In turn, competitors can’t know who you’re doing business with or what your future plans are.
5. Follows a No-Log Policy
When you use a VPN server, most will log connections like most servers on the internet. This means that any cybercriminal or government that has access to the VPN server can find out what your users are connecting to. This is because transaction and connection logs provide connection details including IP addresses. If you’ve somehow tracked cybercriminals, you’ll know they prefer pulling this info from the VPN server. Otherwise, they’ll have to use decryption tools, which can be a hassle.
The major challenge is the location of the cybercrime, not who committed it. Try to use a business VPN solution that has a no-log policy to reduce your exposure to cybercriminals. That said, don’t expect it to stop driven cybercriminals from accessing your data; it just makes it harder.
6. Provides Centralized Administrative Tools
Business VPNs typically have a centralized administrative tool that enables administrators to control access from users while monitoring their sessions. This offers additional security as it enables administrators to track down bad actors fast.
That’s not to say your servers won’t log transaction events, but tracking down what’s happening is time-consuming. In comparison, these VPN tools make it far easier to determine if something suspicious is occurring.
- Look for 24/7 live support for enterprises
- Don’t trust an HTTPS connection, these are easy to exploit and leak your data; always use a business VPN
- Use a business VPN that has an anonymous DNS feature to stop DNS queries from being monitored by cybercriminals and business competitor
Business VPNs allow you to work from different locations in relative safety from MIM attacks through data encryption. You can also use VPNs to create site-to-site private networks. That also ensures geographic locations don’t limit business needs.
When looking for a business VPN, ensure your solution has enterprise-level utilities and support. This way, your business won’t suffer downtime from VPN issues. You should also implement a centralized control and monitoring solution. That said, remember that an airtight cybersecurity policy is still necessary. VPNs can’t always protect you from human errors.
If you’re interested in learning more about business VPNs, check out the FAQ and Resources section below.
Why do I need a business VPN with a kill switch?
A VPN kill switch stops your internet connection if your VPN connection drops. Instead, all data traffic stops until you can establish a new VPN connection. Alternatively, you’ll have to close the business VPN software. In essence, a kill switch stops your unencrypted data from being visible to hackers using ‘man-in-the-middle’ (MIM) attacks.
What’s a business VPN no-log policy?
Some business VPN service providers offer a no-log policy. That means the VPN server doesn’t record your transactions. This stops hackers from finding out what sites you’re connecting to. This also reduces your potential risk of exploitation from bad actors.
Why is anonymous DNS important for business VPN users?
Anonymous DNS is a feature that some business VPN services support. When you query a DNS server, the data isn’t deemed important by most VPN service providers. As a result, it’s excluded from encryption. Anonymous DNS encrypts DNS queries. It also helps businesses hide who they’re working with from competitors. Hackers also can’t decipher your DNS information.
What enterprise utilities does a business VPN typically offer?
Business VPN providers often have enterprise-level 24/7 live support. They also offer 100% uptime. That way, they ensure businesses don’t lose money from the VPN being offline. In addition, some business VPN providers offer a centralized user control and monitoring system. That way, you can give and restrict user access quickly and monitor who is accessing the network.
How can I use a business VPN to access software licenses?
You can use a business VPN to access software license pools as if you were on-site and accessing the local network. Most software providers provide license server options. When a user connects to a license server through the VPN, they can use the license pool as normal. They simply have to start up the software on their remote computer. Once the connection terminates, the license becomes made available again.
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