TIME TO READ: 4 MINUTES
Let's talk online privacy. For years now, the humble VPN has kept Internet connections private for individuals and businesses alike. Using VPNs has only become more important as cyberattacks proliferate.
That means it's imperative to keep your data private while working. Two types of VPN exist to do this: on-premise hardware/software VPN solutions, and newer cloud-based VPN services.
Which should your business use? That's what this WOOF! will cover.
What a VPN Is
VPN stands for "Virtual Private Network." It's a technology that creates secured connections when you're online. It protects your privacy by encrypting any data you send and receive.
You work normally—the VPN works in the background, like many other security tools. The only thing you might notice is a slight slowdown while using the Internet. We'll come back to that.
When to Use a VPN
VPNs act like a "tunnel" shielding your data while it travels through the Internet. What kind of data does it shield? Your IP address, contact information, computer identifiers, financial information, sales transaction data...you get the idea.
Cybercriminals, no-scruples business competitors, and state sponsors of cyberattacks would love to get their hands on such invaluable data. Therefore, it makes sense to use a VPN whenever you need to connect to company resources, while you're outside of your office's network. In a hotel, at a coffee shop, at a customer site, and so on.
The Major Difference Between an On-Premise VPN and a Cloud VPN
An On-Premise (or "On-Prem") VPN is a hardware-based platform that runs on the edge of your network. It often uses a dedicated server, or a VPN gateway device. One example is Pulse Secure, which we use & recommend.
A Cloud VPN is a cloud service, supplied by a third party. Examples include ExpressVPN and Hamachi.
Features of On-Prem VPNs
- Complete control of remote access
- Easily integrates with Active Directory, reducing setup time & maintenance
- Faster connection speeds
- More expensive
Cloud VPN Service Features
- No hardware needed
- Routine maintenance is done for you
- Slower connection speeds
- Less expensive
The differentiating factors are access speed, security level, and price. Cloud VPNs are cheaper, though we've had customers complain of slow Internet access when using one. An On-Prem VPN costs more up front, but has much faster speeds.
Note: We use the Pulse Secure VPN (on-premise) due to its track record, our ability to control its access, and its ability to work for customer use as well as our own.
Choose Your VPN According to Your Company's Operations
Both VPN options employ significant privacy safeguards. Both will provide detailed logs of all activity, in case you're concerned about a possible infiltration (which you should be).
That said, an on-prem VPN solution will offer more security safeguards than a cloud-based VPN. Think about it: if anyone can use the same cloud VPN service, what's stopping a nefarious individual from subscribing, learning its operations, and figuring out how to hack it?
Your company's priorities, and how it operates, should decide which option you choose.
Let's look at a visual. This table illustrates the case for a Cloud VPN, or an On-Prem VPN, depending on factors in your company's operations. This is a simplified version of the questions we ask customers, when they ask about VPNs.
Take a look through each column. See which option matches your company more closely.
Your office uses cloud services
Your office runs most of its IT services on premise
Your company has multiple offices which operate semi-autonomously
Your company uses a central data center for all locations' IT
Your workforce is spread out—multiple offices, remote work, frequent travelers
The majority of your workforce works in the same office
Low budget for IT services
Moderate budget for IT services
Data privacy is important (if you're hacked, only your company suffers)
Data privacy is critical (if you're hacked, you and all of your customers suffer—and you have liability)
Latency (lag time) can exist on two sides
Latency will exist only on one side (faster)
As you can see, On-Prem VPNs edge out Cloud VPNs overall. While low prices certainly help, slow Internet access can kill a cloud VPN's appeal in a matter of weeks.
In either case, we're glad businesses have a choice when it comes to VPN type. Some protection is always better than none!
VPNs make protecting users easier, which cuts down on cyberattacks & data breaches. Better for the user, better for the business.
Curious about deploying a VPN at your company? Visit our Managed IT Services page to start out.