The security of your business is heavily dependent on the ability of employees and executives alike to stay safe wherever they go. They need to make sure their online activities remain unimpeded and that public networks don’t become a data leak risk. Such a leak could damage your company’s reputation and set your business back months.
One of the main tools used to help businesses overcome these obstacles is a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which is a service that can connect a user to an offsite secure server using an encrypted connection. The encryption allows people to keep themselves safe from hackers on public networks (or any unsafe network). The server hides their IP address, allowing them to keep their activities anonymous and get access to restricted or blocked websites.
All of these things are great, but VPNs can also cause confusion if not used uniformly or correctly. A “bring your own VPN” policy can prove disastrous for several reasons. Your business needs a standard policy, and here are the five main benefits of instating one:
You Can Better Manage the Configurations
Sometimes VPNs need to be managed to work best for the company. If you have a universal VPN policy or even a universally proscribed VPN for employees (in which case it would be recommended to provide access with company funds to facilitate control), then you can know that everyone has settings acceptable to the interests of the company by making those mandatory settings clear. No one will feel as though another has an unfair advantage as well.
You can use these to limit access to certain websites or regions, or simply help people who don’t know better maximize their speed and access. This kind of plan is absolutely essential if you plan on setting up your own VPN server at your company (although this should only really be done by large organizations), as messing around too much can make things more difficult for other users. It might be worth it to include a “tips and tricks” section next to them.
Uniform Universal Access
Any business should know what their employees are capable of not only in their skillsets but in the tools they are using. If you don’t have a general VPN for the company and everyone is just using their own, you might find that someone’s tool isn’t up to par with what the company needs. In the worst case scenario, someone might download a VPN application that is malware in disguise, not checking up on the service first. This could lead to a massive data breach in addition to dropped communications at a potentially crucial moment.
If your company decides upon a singular (and well-reviewed) VPN to work with and provides access or subscriptions to all relevant employees, then it will be easier to work with those remote and travelling employees knowing that they all are getting the same level of access. Chance and circumstance will be removed from the equation, and your IT specialists will be thanking you for months.
Exact Knowledge of Security
If you have a strong VPN policy that is regularly enforced, you can work under the assumption that all employees using a VPN will have a set level of security wherever they go. This allows you to send and receive sensitive information with much less risk, because unfortunately not all VPNs are created equal.
You don’t want some employees vulnerable to cyberattacks and cyberespionage while others are fine. They might feel emboldened in their security practices by the fact that they use a VPN. In your policies you need to reiterate that danger doesn’t go away entirely due to VPN use, and by having company-wide policies, you can focus on what dangers still prevail. A VPN policy will remind people that it’s not a panacea, but it should always be used.
Rules and Guidelines
People use VPNs for different reasons. Some of those reasons are strictly security related, and others are related to torrenting or pirating files. Most people wouldn’t think to download the latest box office hit on their VPN at the office, but such things do happen, and you need to be prepared for any situation.
If you have a VPN policy, then your company can clearly spell out what VPNs are to be used for and what is acceptable online behavior. Some of it can relate to already existing technology guidelines, but even those should be reiterated in your VPN policy (it won’t do any harm). No one will be able to say they didn’t know better, and clear action can be taken if these rules are broken.
Usage Control and Easier Management
Something you will want to take into consideration is who you allow to use a VPN. If your company is providing VPNs and has strict rules surrounding them, you should only allow employees to use them, not friends and family members. They might have good intentions but later cause a data breach or other critical issue down the line.
A policy will allow you to manage potential issues such as these with little difficulty, and having a pre-selected VPN and policies means that you or someone else can spend less time learning about different VPNs and more time focusing on a single one to optimize. You will be better able to know about potential activity and potential problems, letting human concerns take the forefront.
VPN guidelines aren’t too difficult to come up with, and in the long run, they will save any business a good deal of time and resources. Implemented correctly, employees won’t have any problems adjusting to them and the company will be safe with a full array of useful information available at all times.
Do you think there are any other reasons that a company should have VPN guidelines? Do you have recommendations of your own that you would like to share with your fellow readers? Any stories regarding a “bring your own VPN” policy that didn’t work out? The sharing of information makes us all improve, so please leave a comment below and continue the conversation about this important tool.
By Cassie Phillips