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Are VPNs fit for purpose?

Stuart Sharp, Global Director of Solutions Engineering at OneLogin, argues that VPNs are bad for productivity and security

Stuart Sharp, OneLogin

Remote working has become commonplace, with more and more employees choosing to avoid the stresses and interruptions of the modern-day workplace and work from the comfort of their own home instead. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) predict what half of the UK workforce will be working from remote locations by 2020.

Not all business owners are convinced. Tech goliaths HP, IBM and Yahoo have recently rescinded the option for their employees to work from home. The reality is that, for many companies, having a high percentage of employees working from home just isn’t the same as having an office full of busy employees. This is mostly down to the ease with which employees can remotely access corporate applications.

The Virtual Private Network (VPN) was created to provide employees at home or on the road with a secure link to the corporate network. Today, almost half (48%) of UK IT professionals surveyed by OneLogin require employees to use VPNs when working remotely. However, with 30% frequently receiving complaints that the use of a VPN slows down remote network access, many organisations are struggling to find a balance between productivity and security.

The survey found that half of remote workers spend up to one day per week connected to unsecured networks in an effort to circumnavigate VPNs and get on with their work, leaving organisations open to a host of cyber threats. By relying on outdated, ‘not fit for purpose’ VPNs, organisations are inadvertently making remote working impossible and encouraging employees to flout security best practice.

Having a fully cloud-based strategy might seem an ideal solution, but this isn’t always easy to realise. Many organisations, particularly enterprises, have a host of on-premise legacy IT systems and can’t move everything into the cloud overnight. IT policies and end-point management strategies need to reflect this and address both cloud and on-premise IT infrastructures. Neglecting either one is not an option.

A different approach
In order to evolve, businesses are in need of a low-maintenance solution that handles employee provisioning and deprovisioning, whilst also improving security and reporting. To meet this demand, Identity and Access Management (IAM) providers need to offer solutions that manage both on-prem and cloud environments from one unified platform.

Regardless of whether companies deploy more on-premise or cloud applications, having one unified access management platform will simplify and manage access in real-time. Coupling this with a smart IAM system that can power intelligent authentication tools, bolster security measures and increase functionality for end users will propel industries towards digital transformation in a safe and secure fashion.

In today’s competitive landscape, business efficiency and agility are necessities. Remote working still has a key role to play, but it has to be secure if its benefits are to be realised.

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