Safety and security are essential concerns for anyone who uses the internet, but even more so for businesses. Cybercrimes are extremely common these days, and they mostly target small businesses. A 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon shows that 43% of data breaches involve small businesses, and what makes them so vulnerable is that they don’t expect it. But it makes sense when you think about it. Targeting regular internet users is not as profitable, and corporations have very effective security systems in place.
On the other hand, small business owners tend to focus more on minimizing costs and maximizing productivity. They’re less concerned with security and information management, but they often collect and store information on their clients. This is what makes them so appealing to hackers.
A cyber-attack can bring your business to a standstill and ruin the trust you’ve worked so hard to build with your clients.
VPN services have become a vital security technology. However, most people only have a superficial understanding of what they are and their purpose. In this article, we will explain what a VPN does, why businesses need them, and how to choose the right one.
What Is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. As the name suggests, VPNs can create a virtual network between two networks that are physically separate. They can connect your computer, smartphone, or tablet to another computer – a server – from another location. You can then use that server’s connection and IP address to browse the internet. If that server is located in another country, it will appear as if your online activity is coming from that location and not your real IP address.
Since it passes your traffic through an encrypted tunnel, a VPN provides you with an additional level of security and helps you maintain your online anonymity. You can also use it to bypass censorship and geo-restrictions.
For example, let’s say you have a small company located in San Francisco. One of your employees can use a VPN so he or she can work from their home in Houston and be able to access the company’s intranet as if they were in San Francisco. You can also use it to get access to your computer at home while you’re on a business trip or vacation.
Moreover, VPNs encrypt these connections, so others can’t see the data you’re transferring. This is especially useful when you’re using Wi-Fi networks from airports and coffee shops.
VPNs are also used by people who want to bypass high levels of monitoring and censorship like in China or covert monitoring like in the United States. Likewise, ISPs have the habit of snooping on your online activity and can throttle your connection depending on the type of content you’re accessing. VPNs can help you with that because all your traffic will be going through that encrypted tunnel we mentioned, so your ISP won’t know what kind of content you’re accessing.
In a nutshell, VPNs give you an extra layer of security and hide your traffic from governments, ISPs and hackers. The problem is that there are so many on the market that it’s hard to decide which one to choose for your business.
VPNs for Businesses: What Should I Look For?
There are three main types of VPNs you can consider for your business. We’ll start with the fixed VPN, which you can usually get from an ISP or network provider. You can use this type of VPN to connect a branch office to your main office. They can be very useful but don’t offer a lot of flexibility.
For the second type of VPN, you need a specialized server or a router with a built-in server feature and an IT department to manage it. This kind of VPNs is typically used by large corporations.
Then you have VPN service providers that are cloud-based and have the advantage of being user-friendly and more affordable, but unfortunately, they tend to be more consumer-oriented, so if you want to use them for business purposes, you need to know which features to look for.
Unlike private users, businesses are less interested in accessing Netflix libraries from other countries and are more concerned with VPN’s security features. Therefore, the encryption protocol is especially important since a company needs a VPN that offers a leak-free connection to the internet.
When choosing a VPN provider, pay attention to:
- DNS leak protection – DNS stands for Domain Name System. A DNS leak means that your DNS requests are visible to your ISP even though you’re passing them through your VPNs encrypted tunnel.
- Split-tunneling – As the name suggests, the split-tunneling features lets you separate the traffic you’re passing through the VPN. You can use some apps with the VPN while others you use on your regular internet connection provided by your ISP.
- Kill switch – If there are any issues that cause you to lose connection to your VPNs server, the kill switch prevents your devices from reconnecting to the internet and exposing your real IP address and traffic.
VPN security features are vital for businesses, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need speed. Maybe you’re not using your VPN to stream video content, but you still need a fast connection to conduct your daily business operation and transfer data either to customers or among employees from different branches.
When choosing a VPN service provider, make sure they can deliver high levels of security as well as a fast and reliable connection.
Reputation & Support
As with most things, one of the easiest ways to check if a VPN service provider is worth it is to check the company’s reputation in terms of performance and their history of working with other companies similar to yours.
If you don’t have an IT department that can take care of network-related problems, you’ll need your VPN service provider to offer tech support, so you don’t have to wait several days to gain back access to your data because of server downtime.
Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and Yahoo Small Business.