No matter how big or small your company may be, there’s one business tool you literally cannot afford to be without: a VPN.
What is a VPN? In oversimplified terms, it’s your own personal tunnel onto the internet. That might sound like the stuff of hackers or international operatives, but in reality, it’s a smart option for anyone who’s connecting any device online, whether you work in a sensitive field or not.
It doesn’t matter if your company is a medical software developer with hundreds of employees or a family-owned plumbing company, you need to protect information that you collect. Your team might be working on a brand-new proprietary system, or you might be letting people pay for your homemade soaps with a credit card. In any event, you now have sensitive information that can hurt you in a big way if a hacker gets their hands on it.
A business VPN can do more than just secure your network, though. It can protect your IoT devices, make your connection appear to be in another place, unlock access to restricted content, and keep your employees’ information secure if they’re connecting remotely.
More importantly, with the abundance of high-quality security firms providing really affordable VPNs, this is one of those tools you cannot afford to be without. Ranging from free to around $100 a year or more, are you going to risk your company’s reputation and future by not securing your business network with an easy-to-use yet highly-secure VPN?
The face of business in the 21st century means more and more companies are relying on employees who work remotely. That means your team may be spread out over different continents, telecommuting from right in your own city, or other scenarios that require different people to connect to your network from different locations.
A business VPN can protect all of your assets and your team members during remote meetings, when sending files back and forth via email or collaboration apps, and even when using public WiFi during a lunch meeting in the local coffee shop.
The kinds of information that a company—regardless of the size—have to share with different team members can be devastating if they fall into the wrong hands. That’s why data breaches and legislation like the EU’s GDPR are such grave matters. Whether you’re emailing the latest project update or simply sending a document to a printer in another room, without a VPN, you could be sharing that information with outsiders.
When startup founder Peter Sims got a weird text from an acquaintance one evening, his trust in a company fell apart. Sims was in an Uber, on his way to catch a train to Washington, DC. In this now infamous story, the person texting him updates on his whereabouts was attending an Uber launch event in Chicago, and Sims’ name and location were being broadcast on large screens at the party in real time. Details from that event are at times contradictory, but Sims maintains that the room of attendees got to watch him travel at every turn.
Now, as a startup founder and venture capitalist, what would have happened if that room full of people watched Sims get dropped off at a crucial, top-secret investment meeting? Entire deals could have been blown apart if someone had connected Sims’ dots.
There are lots of reasons to avoid being tracked. Your company may have highly-sensitive projects going on, your competitors may want to keep tabs on your latest work, or you just might be someone who wants others to stay out of your private affairs. Either way, blocking the many tracking attempts online with a good VPN can protect you both personally and professionally.
Several decades ago, a savvy businesswoman launched her own public relations firm on Park Avenue in New York City. Unbeknownst to her clients, the office was also her home, a tiny one-bedroom walkup on the eighth floor that didn’t even have a kitchen sink. But it was on Park Avenue, and therefore, so was her firm.
Today, startups might face the same challenge: how do I attract new customers and grow my business in a field dominated by big dogs when I’m located in the middle of Iowa? The answer is simple: deploying a business VPN that masks your connection.
More accurately, it’s a great way to mask the connection for your different branch offices, if you’re large enough to have those. It’s also a good way to file share or send sensitive content to your co-workers if they live in regions where it might be blocked or where the security might be weaker.
The Internet of Things
IoT devices are nothing short of incredible, but they’re also a massive security nightmare. If you rely on things like money-saving smart bulbs and thermostats, security cameras that feed to your smartphone when you’re not in the office, or workplace productivity tools that you can control from home, you’ve got to have a VPN protecting your router.
Remember, this goes for your entire team; if you’re one of the growing number of companies that attracts great talent with perks like the option to work remotely, any vulnerability your employee has at home—including with their own IoT devices—can affect your network in the office.
Bring Your Own Device
There are a lot of reasons a company may let employees use their personal devices on the company network. If security is maintained, it just makes good fiscal sense. Why would you invest in all new hardware if your employees are comfortable and efficient on devices they already own?
Unfortunately, once that device leaves your offices, you don’t know what the person does with it on their own time. If they’ve downloaded a virus or other malware at home, they just carried it to your office as well. By requiring a VPN (and a strong antivirus solution), you’re better able to protect your network and your company’s reputation.
Taking It Mobile
Remember, your company’s handsets are just as vulnerable as any other tech on your network. Whether they’re company-issued or employee-owned, those mobile devices can be gateways to stealing everything in your network. By insisting your employees use a VPN on their mobile devices if they’re doing any work-related activity or connecting to your network, you can reduce your risk of a cybercrime.
You have to constantly keep in mind that new regulations are in effect in many different countries. This means losing access to customer information can be the end of your hard-built business. Of course, letting proprietary information fall into the wrong hands can also spell the end of your company. Never forget that mobile devices can be just as risky as any other component in your network.
Business VPNs Aren’t Just for the Big Guys
With so many options to deploy a strong, affordable VPN, there’s really no excusable reason not to put one to work for you. Some of the top names in cybersecurity solutions—think Avast, AVG, Kaspersky, Panda, Nord, and many, many more—offer comprehensive tools that can be tailored to the size and specific needs of your company.
But my little company doesn’t need this kind of protection… Wrong. First of all, there’s no such thing as an insignificant company; every business started somewhere, from Steve Jobs’ garage, to a nightclub where Uber was first demoed between some friends. Your company may not be a Fortune 500 giant right now, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way.
More importantly, the mindset of the “little company” is exactly why hackers are actually more likely to go after small businesses. They know you don’t have the budget for a dedicated IT department, your security protocols might not be as strong as, say, Google’s, and even more damning, you may have multiple employees sharing workstations or using their own devices. The smaller you are, the more likely you are to have a network the bad guys can crack.
At the same time, being small doesn’t mean you can’t result in a payday for cybercriminals. Ransomware attacks are on the rise, and even the smallest mom-and-pop operation may have customers’ credit card numbers stored in their computers. The smaller you are, the more likely it is that you need to install a VPN today.
No matter what size your company is, or what industry you operate in, a VPN can provide a range of benefits to your business. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our handy guide to VPNs.
You can then check out the full range of VPNs on FileHippo to find one that works for you.
You may also be interested in our 7-step guide to improving cybersecurity for small businesses.