Digital workspaces: A successor to the enterprise VPN?

Remote work has been on everybody’s mind this past year. Whether you’re in upper management or an information worker near the bottom of the heap, the ongoing pandemic has impacted where and how you work. A virtual private network (VPN) solution is a common approach used by many companies for enabling employees to work from home securely instead of at the office. But VPNs can provide a false sense of security, and they have to be managed carefully if you want to keep hackers out of your corporate network. The user experience of accessing the corporate network using a VPN can also be disappointing and even confusing for some employees. With these reasons in mind, many companies struggling to keep their business going during this difficult time have started looking elsewhere for an alternative way of enabling employees to work from home without the use of a VPN and in a manner that is secure and also enables the employee to work productively.

Digital workspaces

Digital workspaces: A VPN alternative

One individual who knows something about these difficulties and has created an alternative solution to VPNs is Michael Abboud, CEO and founder of TetherView, a leading private cloud provider based in Oceanport, N.J. TetherView is an IT solution company that builds secure, compliant, resilient business networks created in private clouds assuring business continuity and disaster recovery. Their current flagship product, Digital Bunker, is a comprehensive one-way-in and one-way-out private cloud solution designed for enterprise customers.

I connected with Michael recently and asked him why it is important for businesses today to provision digital workspaces for their employees and whether the COVID-19 pandemic is the only thing driving this, or whether there are other factors to consider. “Digital workspaces are more than just about providing a solution for remote employees,” Michael replied. “Digital workspaces provide workers with a consistent user experience from any location, device, or internet connection. This consistency improves productivity, simplifies IT delivery, and streamlines management. Not to mention that if a digital workspace is deployed properly, it also reduces the risk to an organization by more than 80 percent.”

I asked Michael next what some of the key features were that are needed for such workspaces to be secure, and he responded saying, “The most important feature of a digital workspace is that it must be comprehensive and solves the user’s entire business needs. Workspaces that are built to deliver a specific application actually make things worse through their complexity. A good digital workspace needs to cut the cord from a VPN since workspaces that depend on a VPN for connectivity actually increase the risk to the organization. VPNs are very temperamental and typically provide users with a poor user experience, and they can create a major single point of failure for organizations that rely on them.”

compliance program

A boost for compliance

What about regulatory compliance was my next question for him. Can implementing digital workspaces help reduce the growing burden companies are facing in this area? “Without a digital workspace,” Michael said, “it is nearly impossible to have your team be compliant in the office — not to mention when they are remote. Digital workspaces improve compliance by reducing the number of moving pieces in an IT environment, thus making it easy to deliver a consistent, highly controlled to your users regardless of where they sit.”

I mentioned next that I’d heard the phrase “one-way-in / one-way-out” being used about such offerings, and I asked him what this means exactly and why it is important. “TetherView proudly coined that phrase,” said Michael. “Specifically, with a digital workspace, users have an always-on telepresence inside of the Digital Bunker created for an organization. So, when someone is using a virtual desktop inside a Digital Bunker, they enter through a highly secure “door,” and when they exit (for example, to surf the net, download a file, and so on), they use a door that controls that traffic. This reduces the IT footprint while providing controls that are impossible to complete without a digital workspace.”

My next question for Michael was, “How does TetherView’s new Digital Bunker solution work, and is it easy for companies to implement?” These are important considerations if you are a company that considers dipping your toes (or jumping into the deep end) with such technologies. “The Digital Bunker is very simple to use,” Michael replied. “Simply download a free app from your customer-built Digital Bunker and sign in. Once you are logged-in, you will have the same Windows Desktop available to you everywhere.” That sounded great to me, but I wondered how hard it was to implement the solution. “Implementation is just as easy,” continued Michael. “The TetherView team will migrate and implement it for you. We start with some basic questions and then build a Digital Bunker to meet your every requirement.”

As we neared the end of our conversation, I asked Michael where he thought this whole field of providing digital workspaces is headed over the next 3-5 years. He replied with the following prediction: “Digital workspace use will continue to grow exponentially as businesses struggle to stay ahead of demanding users, web-based SaaS vulnerabilities, remote workforces, growing cyberthreats, and more complex regulations.”

Any last thoughts, I asked him? Michael responded with four key points to keep in mind concerning this technology. “First, digital workspaces require expertise and lots of planning to get it right — we have seen many failed deployments. Second, not all digital workspaces are the same, depending on the specific requirements of your industry. Third, compliance is not security! And finally, compliance is very tricky. TetherView’s compliance includes the digital workspace itself, not just the underlying infrastructure.”

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