VPN – or virtual private networking – is commonly used for remote collaboration and secure access to enterprise resources. Businesses and employees use VPNs to gain secure, encrypted access to networks and servers located anywhere in the world. However, traditional VPNs also have their own shortcomings. For example, they eventually require IT support of some kind at both ends of the connection, they can be expensive to implement and are often limited in their ability to accommodate mobile devices.
In the post-pandemic world, telecommuting and remote work are more common than ever. What’s even better is that there are numerous alternatives to VPN to make remote work much more manageable. In this post, we’ll talk about one such option: Application virtualization.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a private network that uses a public network to connect remote sites or users together. In simpler terms, a VPN is a way of using the Internet as if you were on the same local network as another computer.
There are numerous benefits to using a VPN, but the most common one is privacy. Public WiFi hotspots can be dangerous places for you and your data because everyone on those networks can see everything you do online. Using a VPN will help keep your information safe from hackers trying to steal it or infect your device with malware.
A second related benefit is that it connects remote employees to their companies’ private network and allows them to access corporate services normally only available when they connect while physically in the office.
However, as we will soon see, there are also drawbacks to relying on VPNs for remote worker productivity.
Why do I need a VPN?
A VPN is becoming increasingly common as businesses look to shore up their online security and support remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. A VPN allows users to connect securely to the organization’s internal network through an encrypted connection, which helps to protect user data from outside threats.
Common Issues with VPN Services for Remote Work Access
The VPN market has grown exponentially over the past decade. It is estimated that there are currently more than 80 million active users of VPN services worldwide. VPNs are an essential tool for anyone who wants to keep their actions private online or connect to their company network. However, numerous VPN problems can arise with these services. Typical examples include slow connection speeds, limited remote customer support, dropped connections, and many others. Here are some of the considerations you should take into account if your organization relies on a VPN for remote worker productivity:
Slow Speeds. If you experience a slowdown when using your VPN, it might be because you don’t have enough bandwidth due to throttling, or perhaps many other employees are connecting at the same time, overloading the VPN gateway. Nowadays, most organizations and service providers limit bandwidth for VPN users as it helps them manage overall traffic and prioritize certain types of business traffic over others. However, it may also mean that IT must buy additional VPN gateways to accommodate sudden growth in employees working from home. Either way, costs begin to add up.
Remote User Support. Substandard user support is a problem for many consumer VPN service providers, but it can also challenge business IT departments. Connecting a device to a VPN generally requires a client to be installed and configured on each user’s device. Set-up and use may not be straightforward. Some employees may be better equipped than others to support themselves. For those that need extra help configuration or troubleshooting connectivity problems, the added barrier of having to do it remotely adds cost and valuable time.
Dropped Connections. A dropped connection is a problem that every VPN user has faced at some point. If you’re using a VPN to access company resources or submit information, it stands to reason that you will need to connect and disconnect from the VPN regularly.
But what does it mean when your VPN connection keeps dropping? To begin with, the risk of lost work is a distinct possibility. Since applications, data, and data processing still reside on the user device (most likely a Windows laptop), a failed VPN connection most likely means that your work is lost, and you’ll have to begin again.
In a more extreme scenario, users may be cut off entirely from central resources, dramatically impacting their ability to complete their work. At that point, the challenge of remote support begins, frustrating the user even further.
BYOD. While the idea of BYOD is excellent, there are some problems remote workers experience with VPNs and any devices that are not provided by the IT department. One such issue is that not all VPN services work with BYOD devices.
Even if they are supported, using BYOD devices on a corporate VPN network introduces potential security risks. It generally requires that IT departments install and configure corporate clients on the employee’s personal device, along with other security measures. Many organizations insist on taking these steps to ensure that compromised devices do not compromise network security. For example, if a device infected with malware connects to the corporate network, it can introduce new vulnerabilities and place corporate data and servers at risk.
Security Threats to Corporate Networks. In addition to the malware threats posed by unsecured devices, VPNs can pose another challenge: Unintended access to information. A VPN connection means that remote users have access to the open corporate network and resources. So if a user is careless, corporate information could be compromised. There are solutions that limit access to specific network resources, but they can be costly, complicated, and ultimately limited in their ability to finely control access on an individual user level.
Data Theft. Finally, the traditional model of client-server-VPN computing takes into account that:
- Devices connected to a VPN are typically laptops that perform most or all of the computing tasks using locally installed applications; and
- User data is stored locally on the user’s device.
In a study of data theft, Gartner showed that corporate devices themselves could represent a significant risk to corporate data loss. They concluded that one laptop is stolen, on average, every 53 seconds. Those laptops are the primary cause of 40% of corporate data breaches reported over ten years. A majority of this theft occurs outside of the office, including in public places like airports, restaurants, or any other area where a laptop bag is left unattended for even a few short moments. In the absence of preventative measures like file encryption, remote device wiping, and comprehensive backup, storing data locally on a device opens up a new vulnerability point that must be addressed.
For the remote worker, a loss of their laptop, whether due to theft or malfunction, means that they may be sidelined until they recover their data and applications (if they are even able to do so.)
VPN Alternatives for Remote Work
IT departments are faced with a patchwork of costly solutions that do not take a unified approach to supporting the needs of the new distributed workspace.
The problem is that we need to redefine the workspace to properly support today’s remote workers.
Inuvika’s solution for remote access addresses the needs of today’s mobile workforce while also addressing the shortcomings of the traditional client-server-VPN computing model.
OVD Enterprise is built for remote work. It is a fully integrated application virtualization platform that creates secure virtual workspace environments and lets employees work remotely without the need for a VPN connection. It addresses not only secure connectivity, but also other issues like application management, user access privileges, centralized management, and eliminating the mandated need for corporate-managed devices.
How it Works
OVD Enterprise takes a broader approach to enabling remote work.
It begins by centralizing corporate data and applications within cloud datacenter servers. The servers may be on-premise or in a public cloud. Once a user connects directly via the Enterprise Secure Gateway, OVD combines the data and applications with a familiar interface (usually a Windows desktop or a Web portal) and delivers everything together to users on any device.
Devices include Windows, Linux, and Mac desktops; iOS and Android devices; thin clients; Chromebooks; or any other device that contains an HTML5 Web browser.
1) OVD eliminates the need for users to connect to the open network via a VPN, eliminating network security risks and slow connection speeds.
2) Users can use any device without the need for a corporate-managed device.
3) Centralizing data and apps means that apps run in real-time; platform dependencies are eliminated, and data security is improved because apps and data never reside on the devices.
A Great User Experience. Apps and sessions launch in seconds, creating a user experience that is fast and reliable. You can eliminate bandwidth congestion and unstable connection problems since you don’t funnel connection traffic through a VPN. In the event of a service outage or disconnect, OVD protects the working state of your virtual workspace. Simply reconnect and resume your work from where you last left it.
Ease-of-Management. IT departments love OVD Enterprise because apps, users, infrastructure, and data are centralized and easily managed.
OVD’s single Web-based Admin Console makes administration a breeze. Rather than update applications on hundreds of physical laptops, apps are only updated once on cloud servers and instantly published to approved users.
Fine level control over user privileges lets you control every aspect of user behavior ranging from simple cut-and-paste permission to a complete environment lockdown. Managing access to storage shares and other resources is also easy.
OVD also includes a host of monitoring and support tools like User Shadowing to assist remote users if they encounter any problems.
User Scalability. With more organizations moving to remote work on a full or part-time basis, IT departments need solutions that can easily accommodate changing conditions. Adding users to OVD is quick and easy compared to the long and arduous process of adding VPN capacity. Inuvika offers a simple yearly or multi-year OPEX subscription model based on concurrent users. It gives IT departments more flexibility for budgeting and capacity forecasting.
Learn More and Get Started
OVD Enterprise is the best VPN alternative for remote work access. But don’t take our word for it; try it yourself for free.
Request a free trial of OVD Enterprise and experience it live. You can also book a live Web demo and receive a personalized overview with one of our experts.
You can also learn more about OVD’s features here.