Exploring the VPN Market Choices

By eWEEK Staff  |  Posted 2009-10-19 Print this article Print

Exploring the VPN market choices

The current generation of hardware and operating systems are leaving both enterprises and users increasingly frustrated about their VPN options. For example, many of those purchasing new computers are obviously opting for the latest and fastest machines, but are later finding out that their company's VPN is not compatible. Therefore, the shiny new device cannot be used for work.

Whether businesses are looking for hardware versus software or IP Security versus Secure Sockets Layer VPN (SSL VPN) options, there are many different solutions on the market. Let's take a look at four possible solutions:

Solution No. 1: Freeware VPNs

Freeware VPNs are applications that provide an inexpensive option for remote network access. Users can test certain functions within their network environments with no direct software costs. Optimal for the individual user, the software is open standards-driven and developers encourage the community to "donate" and modify the source code. Consequently, freeware VPNs can offer features that aren't commercially available yet.

While freeware is an interesting option for the individual ad hoc use, it is not ideal for enterprise adoption on any scale. The lack of technology support is a big issue, and there is no central control or management of the software. In addition, many organizations are adopting freeware without any formal policies or governance in place. Serious flaws that were not fixed before release pose to be problematic and can easily compromise the network's security and reliability. The software can also come with advertisements or programs that install spam software on users' systems.

Solution No. 2: Web-based remote access utilities

This paid-for software is intended to provide users with access to a PC remotely, displaying on the laptop screen or system that is located outside of the office. It does allow for a secure encrypted connection, two-factor authentication (2FA) and notifications of user logins. In addition, these Web-based utilities require little to no configuration to set up. The software is a convenience solution that provides simple remote desktop access.

Is this a case for ditching the VPN entirely? Not exactly. First, the computer inside the corporate network must be fully available to the remote user. The systems have to be turned on and be functioning correctly. Second, remote access services can extend the network perimeter to unknown locations, sneaking untested software into the service portfolio and changing the user's risk profile. The software can also be problematic with making connections inside the firewall and might not conform to an organization's security best practices with regard to privacy and implementation. Enterprises should not rely on these Web-based utilities as viable VPN alternatives.



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