Navigating the Digital Jungle: A User’s Guide to Virtual Private Network (VPN) Software

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A virtual private network (VPN) gives businesses the ability to create a secure and private connection between work computers and the internet. This can be done over a public network (for example, public Wi-Fi at airports or in hotel rooms) by encrypting details of the origin, destination, and interaction.

While one cannot remain completely anonymous, a significant part of all internet usage remains concealed through the VPN. This goes a long way to protect the data of the organization and clients, particularly when security can be sketchy when one is using hardware or software that is not updated frequently.

With many businesses resorting to VPN services in recent times and competition becoming increasingly intense, an organization must evaluate VPNs for the right features. The ‘SSL VPN market’ research report by Brand Essence Market Research valued the SSL VPN at USD 3.59 billion in 2018 and projected that it would reach USD 5.96 billion by 2025 with a CAGR of 7.5% during the forecast period. The industry is well on its way to achieving that goal.

1. Enterprise support and plan

When choosing a VPN service, check whether it is designed for private users or businesses. It is important to explore and invest in plans specifically meant for businesses to allow for more seamless integration with your workspace.

A business-centric VPN provides a company’s IT department the ability to manage all their VPN connections, with the flexibility of making accessible or withholding data from different categories of employees. This ensures that the data is safe. Individual plans will not be able to do this. With a business plan, a bonus would be the inclusion of anti-malware and a centralized billing system that can be tailored for a company.

2. Encryption protocol

A VPN software should be transparent about the protocols it uses for encryption. Ideally, VPN services should utilize the latest encryption measures to ensure the safety of their client’s data.

Businesses need features, such as AES-256 encryption, OpenVPN functionality, and products that offer independent auditing by a trusted third party. VPN services that accept anonymous payments offer incorporation of open source software if needed, and clearly disclose vulnerabilities are worth considering. Besides having measures to prevent IP and DNS leaks, a VPN should offer a range of protocols, such as kill switches, split tunneling, and Tor compatibility.

3. Firewalls

This is not an easily found service, but if a VPN service offers a firewall as an additional line of security for a connection, then it is an important aspect to consider. A firewall protects a device from potential hacker attacks. A firewall enhances the security quotient of a VPN by ten times. This does not, however, mean that without it, a VPN is vulnerable.

4. Fast connectivity

Security is undoubtedly a vital feature in the choice of a VPN; however, speed is of critical importance as well. High-quality data encryption requires good internet speed. Slow connectivity does not bode well for a business – it can lead to downtime, glitches, and, as a result, low rates of conversion. When exploring VPNs for an organization, give the internet speed just as much consideration as security.

5. Multi-platform compatibility apps

With work-from-home (WFH) increasingly being the norm, a larger number of companies are adopting the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy to ensure that there is no workflow disruption. There are dangers with BYOD, which a VPN can address if chosen wisely. Most individuals tend to use a minimum of 3 to 4 devices to access work-related software.

Choosing a VPN that works on just one or two devices doesn’t offer flexibility. A good VPN service should offer cross-platform compatible apps to ensure seamless working systems. These should ideally include laptops, smart TVs, PCs/Macs, iOS/Android devices. In case a platform is not available, at least configuration files and tutorials should be part of the package.

6. Privacy policies

The logging policies of VPNs can be vague. Ideally, a VPN service should have a zero logs policy, which means that there is no data stored, which may lead to the identification of the user. However, this is still a gray area with VPN services. While some VPNs store logs of bandwidth usage and load on the server for optimization purposes, many others also store data of the origin IP address, DNS requests, as well as other online activity details.

Contractual jargon can be difficult to sift through. The main question that should be answered is what categories of data are stored in zero logs or minimal logs offerings. Bringing in a third party for such evaluation is a great approach.

7. Server location

Distance plays an important role in the efficiency of VPN servers. Some companies with multiple branches worldwide prefer a company that has servers globally, which can service their many offices. Others prefer servers being close to their headquarters and data centers. The right distance can reduce the chances of a network failure, and this is an important feature to consider. 

8.Technical support

The role of a good VPN service provider does not end at providing a package. Of course, companies have IT departments to deal with network issues, but VPN services need to provide technical support as swiftly as possible when required. VPN errors can occur and can result in the devastation of a business’s bottom line, particularly those that are rooted in cloud services. Companies should evaluate a VPN service based on the kind of support it offers.

9. Kill switch

VPN server failures can happen. In such cases, you need a kill switch that prevents any reconnection attempt with the internet until the VPN connection is back up again. Services offering this feature should make it to your list. 

10. VPN blocking prevention

Some countries don’t allow the use of a VPN. If you happen to be in such a country, there are ways to get around this. One way is to choose a service that provides VPN blocking prevention. This connection goes in stealth mode into the deep packet inspection system preventing it from being detected as a private connection. This way, you can still use a VPN despite a ban.

With these key features in mind, a business will be able to evaluate potential VPN services, narrow them down to a few to be tried and tested before making a decision.

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