Business VPN / Firewall When Working from Home


With the state of business in a world of COVID-19, a lot of people are working from home that normally wouldn’t. How are remote workers doing it? What is a business VPN? How can it transform your office team into a remote office team? Watch the video below and read on for more information.

What Is a Business VPN?

The HQ concept that most corporations use requires that employees all drive to a central location where they all use PCs or laptops that are generally connected to a docking station.

This docking station is connected physically to the network that is controlled within a technology room within the facility. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to hardwire and build a secured network for these corporations. Now, with local, state, and even federal governments encouraging social distancing and asking for workers to stay home, corporations are trying to find ways for employees to remain productive and access their work files while not being physically present at the office.

The reality is, we have had the technology to enable remote work for quite some time; corporations just haven’t been taking advantage of it.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a software version of a company’s private network or group of systems designated specifically for use by the company’s employees. The VPN keeps the connection secure by providing each authorized user with a unique login, password, and sometimes a token that they can use to access the network. When the employee logs into the business VPN, he or she is able to access all of the programs they will need to complete that work as though he or she was sitting in the office. The company’s firewall will prevent employees from exposing the network to bad actors through questionable websites, allowing the remote team members to only access the programs that they need while logged onto the network.

What Is a Firewall?

A firewall is a device used in network security that will monitor all incoming and outgoing activity on the network. It will also either allow or block the activity based on a defined set of security rules. For example, if a company wants its employees to have access through the network to email, CRM, and other company files and programs, the security rules can be set to always allow a specific user to access those files.

However, if the company does not want its employees accessing a website such as YouTube during work time, the security rules can be set to prevent any access to that website. The firewall is the foundation for all network security software and is provided to accomplish a number of tasks, including:

  • Allowing user access into the network by some type of password login system.
  • Managing and controlling network traffic.
  • Recording and reporting all events that take place on the network, and alerting the corporation’s IT personnel when there are potential security issues.
  • Defending resources and acting as an intermediary to ensure that those resources are only accessible by authorized users.

Potential Problems with a Business VPN

VPN usage among businesses worldwide has increased up to 150 percent since the onset of stay-at-home orders related to COVID-19. However, it has not been without problems. Some of those problems include:

  • Lack of bandwidth: Companies who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to build their secure network often did not dream that so many employees would be working remotely. The sheer volume of remote workers right now has resulted in bandwidth issues that will prohibit employees from being able to access the network when too many others are also trying to work or slow loading of email or needed programs.
  • The cost and time involved in adding new licenses: Corporations may have only purchased a few business VPN licenses for use by the CEO, CFO, sales team, and others who needed to be able to connect to HQ while working remotely even before the pandemic. However, now they’re looking to license many more users. There is a cost and time increase not only involved in purchasing additional licenses, as well as in setting up these new licenses and teaching workers how to access the VPN.
  • Security issues: While VPNs encrypt the data that is sent from one place to another, they don’t provide protection once the data is downloaded to the remote employee’s device. This makes sensitive data vulnerable to hackers who gain access to the device through public WiFi networks. This becomes an even bigger problem with glitchy new operating systems. For example, iOS 13.4 has a known bug that makes VPNs vulnerable as it fails to encrypt all traffic, which can lead to iPhone and iPad users to having their data exposed when using a VPN.

Recommendations

While VPNs have made the seemingly insurmountable notion of having an entire team work from home possible, there are a number of things corporations and small businesses can do to make the practice safer and protect their important information, including:

  • Create how-to documents for staff on all new applications they will be required to use or existing applications that will be accessed in new ways.
  • Make sure the devices being used to access the information properly encrypt data, even at rest. Encryption capabilities may have to be turned on or configured.
  • Mobile device management tools can be used to set up standard devices remotely and may also remotely lock devices, erase data, and retrieve backups. 
  • Be sure VPNs are patched and that you have enough licenses, capacity, and bandwidth to support your workers. 
  • Clearly communicate with your employees who they should inform — and how — if their device is lost or stolen.
  • Phishing scams related to COVID-19 are on the rise. Now is a good time to provide employees with training as to how to avoid falling victim to one of these scams. Provide instructions to your employee as to how to run his or her antivirus and to change passwords if his or her VPN information has been compromised.

For more information on business VPNs or help with managing your remote workforce, contact us.

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