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What is a VPN?
A virtual private network (VPN) is a network that connects remote devices over the internet while maintaining the features of a local area network (LAN), such as file sharing and local IP addresses. VPNs also allow remote users to securely connect to an organization’s central network.
To prevent the spread of private information to unauthorized third-party users, a VPN typically requires authentication from remote network users and secures data with encryption technologies. With a VPN, no matter what network you’re on, you can access your company’s data as securely as you could if you were physically present.
Why is a VPN useful?
As remote working becomes more common, companies need to ensure that their employees have access to the company’s internal network while working away from the office. However, connecting from home or a public network carries risks, as these typically don’t have the same level of security as workplace networks. This creates an excellent opportunity for cybercriminals to steal data. Unfortunately, most companies and remote workers don’t realize just how vulnerable to security threats home networks can be.
A VPN allows users to access a business network and ensures the secure transfer and download of data, files, and applications from anywhere, whether it’s from home, a cafe, or any other public space. VPNs facilitate remote work, so employees don’t have to worry about network vulnerabilities or threats. By encrypting all your internet traffic, including passwords, chats, and online activities, a VPN ensures the security of both users and companies.
Why would you need to replace a VPN?
Companies are constantly seeking ways to help them adapt to a changing work environment. VPN technology is not new; on the contrary, it has been used by businesses for over two decades.
The problem is that as technology, business practices, and security requirements change, legacy VPNs fall behind. Replacing your legacy VPN service can help you improve your online privacy and security, while improving connection reliability and speed.
For example, traditional VPNs often have performance issues. Slow loading times, systems that freeze, and a long wait for connection are common issues for remote workers who connect via older VPNs. This is due to network latency, caused by routing all traffic through just a handful of centralized devices in the data center — which also introduce single points of failure into the network.
More critically, legacy VPNs aren’t designed to handle the majority of security threats. Legacy VPNs often assume that all authenticated users need access to everything on the network, so that’s what they provide — even when that access is significantly beyond the scope that a given user needs in order to do their job. If an unauthorized malicious user or a legitimate-but-infected user connects to your network via a VPN, the entire network is vulnerable to malware and data breaches.
As business needs and requirements change, legacy VPNs struggle to keep up, and organizations seek to adopt more modern and efficient practices.
What are some alternatives to a traditional VPN?
Legacy VPNs aren’t enough to secure your network and your assets. If you’re considering replacing your legacy VPN, either wholly or in part, a good starting place is to familiarize yourself with the available alternative options. Depending on your particular needs, you’ll be able to select the most suitable solution for your case. We’ll highlight two different options.
Zero-trust network access
One option is zero-trust network access (ZTNA), which is among the most popular and widely used alternative options. During the pandemic, unprecedented numbers of employees shifted to remote work and needed access to corporate resources. This led to increased cyberattacks, which caused security problems for many organizations and forced administrators to rethink how remote access was granted. Zero-trust network access protects business networks and organizational resources from malicious actors by following the principle of least privilege (PoLP), which uses roles and permissions to ensure that authorized users can access the company resources they need, while restricting access to resources they don’t.
The connection is secure, and both corporate network users and remote users benefit from end-to-end encryption. ZTNA is identity-centric, and it enables organizations to enforce access control policies from the top down.
To provide authorization, ZTNA continuously performs the following checks:
- User identity check with multifactor authentication
- Device identity check to determine if a device is authorized
It’s a customized access policy for users and their devices. It secures your applications, whether on-premise or in the cloud, regardless of where employees are when they log on. Through ZTNA, your IT team can enforce company policies and micro-segment the network for granular access. Additionally, it improves the user experience, as it significantly reduces lag and establishes a secure connection every time. The result is a more confident approach to network and remote access security.
Secure access service edge
Another option is secure access service edge (SASE), a relatively new cloud-based architectural framework that consists of several different components, bringing networking and security functionality together into a centralized cloud service. It enables organizations to have secure access to any application from anywhere and on any device, whether on-premise or in the cloud.
Rather than forcing all remote traffic from users or sites to a central point of inspection, an SASE platform acts as a bridge between users and commonly used cloud apps and provides easy access to SaaS and cloud-hosted applications. In an SASE model, a cloud-hosted security layer sits between users and applications.
This model provides direct connectivity into private data centers and the cloud, plus consistent policy and robust inline security services. SASE leverages edge computing to address bandwidth and latency issues by delivering applications closer to end users. A comprehensive SASE solution that combines networking and security delivers a scalable foundation for growth.
Ultimately, should you still use a VPN?
Even though legacy VPNs struggle to meet today’s business needs, VPNs themselves are still a valuable option. Tailscale is an easy-to-use, secure VPN service that provides businesses and users with essential features that are difficult to find in traditional VPNs. Built on top of WireGuard, Tailscale creates a zero-trust, peer-to-peer mesh network where traffic can flow directly between machines. This approach results in higher throughput as well as lower latency, offering a better user experience than legacy VPNs, and it reduces single points of failure, which increases stability and reliability.
Get started with Tailscale today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to common questions.
Why should you replace your legacy VPN?
With remote working becoming the new standard, legacy VPNs struggle to provide the performance and security that your business requires to adapt to its changing needs.
What other options are available?
Alternative frameworks such as ZTNA and SASE can effectively meet the growing needs of a modern work environment and solve many of the problems that arise with traditional VPNs.