The ongoing health crisis has led to a dramatic increase in businesses doing business from home. Such relocations protect workers from exposure to a physical virus, but at the same time, create vulnerability to online viruses and hackers that can quickly ravage and destroy a business. Whatever your product or service might be, there are people out there who make big money gaining access to your computer and the important information it contains such as personal information, financial account information, and passwords. Savvy hackers can even use your network (and budget VPN) as a pathway into your clients’ networks.
Virtual private networks, VPN’s, provide a level of security needed to operate safely in today’s online business environment. It’s an important element of remote working that, while urgent, should not be rushed into. So often, business owners make decisions based on impulse instead of information. And the results can be catastrophic. Because advertisements for inexpensive or free security solutions are often not inexpensive, free, or secure.
The first step toward improving your business’ security is recognizing the need for a VPN. You’re reading this article, so you’re already a step ahead. Congratulations!
Step two is recognizing that when it comes to VPN’s, there’s no such thing as free. You’ll pay one way or another. Providing a secure reliable VPN incurs costs that providers recuperate in the form of service fees or ads. Costs that you think you’re going to avoid by using a cheap or free budget VPN service will come back to you in the form of usage data, slow internet speeds, unseen malware installations, and an ongoing deluge of pop-ups and banner advertisements.
Step three is learning to recognize common “red flags”…indicators that a budget VPN provider may be one to avoid.
- Log Sharing – VPN services can track and maintain records of users’ activity. The reasons for keeping and/or sharing such logs may or may be honorable or shameful. Whatever your feelings on the matter, choose a VPN provider that has implemented and published a third-party audit of its activity logs use.
- Encryption Strength – Encryption refers to a system that disguises your data so it looks like random nonsense until it reaches its destination where it is put back into its original form. “AES” encryption is what you’re looking for. Services using “PPTP” or “L2TP” encryption should be avoided.
- Reduced Internet Speeds – VPN’s will invariably reduce internet speed due to the encryption of your data. In some cases, a speed reduction of 50% can be caused by something innocent like a lack of local servers. When your speed slows to a crawl, though, can be an indication of the VPN stealing and reselling your bandwidth to create a botnet (a group of computers infected with the same malware and controlled by a single user). One term to watch for is “peer to peer networks.” Technically it suggests you’ll be sharing bandwidth in exchange for the service. But you don’t know what they’re doing with that bandwidth, and that can be dangerous for you and your data.
For most employees directed to work at home, security measures like VPN’s are established, configured, and managed by the company’s IT group. Small business owners without a dedicated IT staff can engage a Managed Services Provider like Blue Collar Computing to evaluate their needs and offer recommendations for ensuring their business can operate effectively and safely from wherever “the office” happens to be. Contact Blue Collar Computing to arrange for a free consultation and discussion about the right VPN for your business.