Remote Access for Mobile: Managed and Cloud-Based VPNs

Original author: John Burke
  • Transfer

Whether it’s trying to upload project files at the client’s office or to access business applications at the airport during flight delays, it doesn’t matter - more and more working people need the ability to use the enterprise’s resources, wherever they have to work and whatever device they are used - laptop, tablet or smartphone. The days when users were content only with access to email while on the move have long passed.

Mobile platforms are confidently evolving and reaching the level where they can provide enhanced capabilities and flexibility that would allow working with many devices. This encourages companies to develop or license mobile applications that take advantage of these features. As a result, company employees often try to access corporate resources using public Wi-Fi access points or other networks that are not in the company's protected area.

Due to this development, dispersed and virtual staff, virtual private networks ( VPNs) continue to be an important element of the overall security of the enterprise. A stable, easy-to-use VPN-network is an indispensable tool in constant work to maintain the security of communications so that they can remain a powerful driving force in the field of business innovation. It provides secure access to systems and programs that are not in the demilitarized zone ( DMZ ), for example, which usually cannot be accessed from outside the corporate network.

Virtual private networks also increase the level of security for users who use insecure , public Wi-Fi access points or password-protected wireless networks whose real security is unknown, such as corporate Wi-Fi access points in client companies.

Due to the rapid growth in the number of mobile device users and the increase in the number of VPN use cases, computer network specialists will have to make sure that their strategy for working with VPN networks meets the following requirements:
  • Network users should be as easy as possible to connect to it through as many different platforms as possible.
  • The infrastructure through which employees connect to the corporate network must be constantly available.
  • The infrastructure of the VPN network must be scalable so that it is possible to control the “spikes” in network traffic that occur due to the introduction of new mobile applications and the increase in the number of users.
  • The license should provide for short-term “bursts” of activity in the use of VPN associated with unforeseen circumstances in the event of natural disasters or a threat to human health.
  • Network technical support should work around the clock all week.

Cloud or managed VPN services: which one is right for you?

However, IT organizations that lack staff and funding may find it difficult to meet these requirements. Transferring the VPN network service to outsourcing of a third-party company will help to facilitate the task of maintaining round-the-clock network availability, active customer support and providing constant updates for an increasing number of mobile platforms. There are two approaches to outsourcing VPN service. VPN hardware can be located directly in your company’s office and managed by a service provider. You can also use hosting or cloud VPN services, in this case the infrastructure is located in the data center of the provider.

With the first approach, all important infrastructure elements are managed by the IT department, which ultimately allows it to take complete control of the VPN. As for firewalls and other infrastructure security elements, IT professionals are generally reluctant to transfer VPN management to third parties. However, a stable technical environment with a high level of access will cost the company a lot of money and can complicate the ability to scale. But, by shifting the costs of daily monitoring and network management to the service provider, computer network specialists can practically eliminate the administrative burden of servicing a VPN network. This can significantly reduce the number of technical support calls for network diagnostics and recovery, which could otherwise reach senior employees. And this

The same operational benefits are achieved in cloud VPNs. In addition, these services change the cost structure: after the creation and updating of the infrastructure becomes the task of the provider, instead of the capital and operational costs of the VPN, there are only operational costs. This can help ensure quick and transparent access to new functionality for companies, since upgrades can be included in the terms of a maintenance contract. And this will not require the modernization or replacement of local equipment. Cloud VPNs can also make it easier for enterprises to modify or replace an installation that no longer meets their needs, because in this case there is no infrastructure due to which it would be necessary to change the hardware or hold onto it until the last, until it is completely worthless. Moreover, any scaling issues are the responsibility of the cloud provider.

None of the approaches guarantee an easier solution to the licensing problem that will inevitably arise with temporary “jumps” in traffic. The IT department will have to negotiate terms with its service providers, the flexibility of which will depend on the infrastructure of the network used. Providers that use private platforms are dominated by their vendors and it is not known what deal can be made with them. And those who create the service on open source platforms can simultaneously apply different policies and set any prices.

Here are some suggestions for choosing between cloud-based VPN services and managed VPNs:
  • If your risk management group feels comfortable without full control over the VPN infrastructure, which is located outside the company's data center, then choose cloud technology.
  • If your security team is ready to put up with the loss of direct control over the VPN infrastructure, then both cloud-based and on-premises managed VPNs may suit you.
  • If the number of your mobile users, platforms, and the number of VPN usage scenarios is changing rapidly, then perhaps cloud-based VPNs will be the best solution.
  • If you already have a reliable outsourcing agreement with a provider that will manage all other local security elements, including firewalls, then adding VPN networks may work.
  • If you start deploying networks from scratch, without existing legacy VPN versions, then first of all take a look at cloud services.
  • If you want to reduce capital costs before operating, then pay attention to cloud services. But also discuss the so-called operational or shared risk models in which the infrastructure is deployed locally but is owned and managed by the remote service provider.

IT departments should always make any decision on outsourcing, clearly presenting their tasks - functional, operational and financial. You will also need a formal decision-making tool, for example, a decision tree or thought-out lists of all strengths and weaknesses - in order to calculate and choose among all the options the tool that best matches the tasks that are set for it. Thanks to all this, the idea of ​​outsourcing a VPN network is attracting an increasing number of companies that decide to shift more and more critical tasks of their technology areas to cloud services or managed service providers.

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