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A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a connection method that’s designed to give your network an added layer of security when using the internet. They’re commonly used by larger corporations that store and transfer large amounts of sensitive data online. However, the growing threat of cyber-crime, combined with an increase in remote working and the introduction of GDPR, means the use of VPNs amongst smaller businesses is increasing.

So, the question is: does your business need one? In Jalapeno’s view, yes. Take a recent example of one of our clients whose systems were hacked through a weak remote access set up. This gave cyber criminals remote access to one of the PCs inside the firewall – effectively meaning they could do whatever they liked with our client’s network.

Luckily, there wasn’t too much damage done as we caught the attack in progress. Sadly, we’ve dealt with far more serious cases where all the data on a network had been encrypted using ransomware and servers have been used to mine crypto currency. This isn’t something any business owner would want to happen, so it may be time to seriously consider investing in a VPN.

How does a VPN work?

Put simply, a VPN gives you enhanced internet privacy and protection against data hacking by closing wide open holes in firewalls and replacing with secure encryption and password measures. Think of it like a nightclub door guard with a list of VIPs. Whilst your firewall protects your data inside your network, a VPN will keep it secure when accessing it remotely – so it can be safely transferred over a public Wi-Fi network and outsiders can’t gain access to your files.

A VPN is ideal for accessing your network remotely if you’re field-based, work from home or operate across multiple locations. In the event that your internet connection is compromised, your data will be encrypted so cyber thieves will be unable to access it.

How do I access a VPN?

You will need specific equipment to enable the VPN function for your organisation. This functionality is often built in with Windows server operating systems, but we don’t recommend that, your server is already hard at work providing internal services. Many higher-level firewalls will VPN functionality built in, we believe that keeping VPN / remote access to the edge of your organisation to be the better choice.

What’s the best type of VPN?

There are numerous VPN technologies to choose from, including IP Security (IP Sec), Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Shell (SSH). These work in slightly different ways to encrypt and protect either your data, the channel it’s passing through, or both. Two or more options can be combined to offer higher levels of security.

The VPN that’s best for your business will naturally depend on your data transfer, security and remote access requirements. As well as selecting the best type, you’ll also need to choose a provider that can match your needs and budget. Jalapeno will be happy to discuss the available options so you can make an informed decision.

Are there any other benefits besides increased data security?

Yes, several. These include potential cost savings as a VPN are generally cheaper than alternatives such as site to site leased lines. You could also experience better network performance, as bandwidth and efficiency can be increased with a VPN. Support costs tend to be low, also.

A VPN is a good choice if your business is growing rapidly and you’re planning to expand into new locations. Rather than installing multiple new phone lines, you can simply use existing public lines and network capability that are already available.

Are there limitations or disadvantages to using a VPN?

As with all IT solutions, there are drawbacks as well as benefits to having a VPN. For example, whilst network performance could improve as noted above, it could also decline, especially if you have a lot of users. This is more of a problem with free services than paid-for ones, though. This is where selecting and installing the correct VPN solution is paramount.

Need help with VPNs? Just ask Jalapeno.

Luckily, you don’t need masses of technical skill to set up a VPN for your business – as Jalapeno Business Services are here to do it for you. From helping you choose the right type of VPN and the best provider to setting up your new connection and training your team to use it, we can manage the whole process from start to finish.

A great place to start is a FREE systems audit for your business, so why not book one online today? Or, call us on 01636 681 110 or email enquiries@jalapeno.is to discuss your internet connectivity and IT security requirements.