The internet is an essential but dangerous tool, especially for small businesses. According to Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigation Report, 58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses, and over 70% of cyber attackers deliberately target small businesses. This isn’t a scare tactic, it’s a reality.
Every small business owner needs to do everything they can to reduce the risk of being attacked. The more layers of security you add, the harder it is for attackers to break through. A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is one important component of a multi-layered security strategy.
Are you keeping your company’s private information as safe as possible? Read on to find out.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is like a tunnel that allows you to make a secure connection between your network, devices, and other networks—your internet destinations. Your data is encrypted before it enters the tunnel, keeping you anonymous and hiding your browsing activities from prying eyes.
Think of it this way: when you send information to the net without VPN encryption, it’s like you’re sending a postcard. The mail delivery person can easily see the information on the postcard. If this person is a bad actor, they can use this information for any number of criminal activities.
On the other hand, when you use a VPN, it’s like the postcard is put in a sealed envelope. No matter how hard the mail carrier squints while holding it up to the light, they won’t see what’s in it. And since your information appears to come from the VPN server’s IP address (not your own IP address), nobody can tell where the letter is coming from either, keeping your internet activity anonymous.
7 Reasons Your Small Business Needs a VPN
Everyone from individuals to large companies and government institutions can benefit from the use of a VPN. Here are the top 7 benefits of a VPN for your small business.
- Remote Access
- Secure File Sharing
- IP Address Origin
- Network Performance
- Lower Costs
When you connect to a network through a VPN, the data is secured and encrypted. Even if an attacker gets their eyes on it, it is useless to them. Since it appears to come from the VPN provider’s IP address, there is no way for hackers to follow the trail to identify and reach your IP address.
In today’s world, you may have employees working remotely from just about anywhere. Having a VPN means information can be securely accessed from anywhere by those employees. Beyond solving potential security issues, a VPN can often increase a company’s productivity by allowing remote access.
A VPN service helps employees securely share files. Most VPNs have settings to control who can see which files to ensure employees only gain access to what they should.
Browsing the web through the VPN provider’s IP address/addresses gives you online anonymity. Since VPNs disguise your actual IP address, would-be hackers can’t trace things back to your IP address to collect sensitive data.
If you need it, a VPN can provide you with an IP address from another country. This can sometimes be necessary to access content from different countries. There is some content that you can’t access if you’re not located in the country where it’s based. A VPN can provide an IP address from that specific country, allowing you access to such content.
Bandwidth and network efficiency can actually improve after a VPN solution is implemented. Many ISPs may control traffic by throttling bandwidth, slowing down your business’s network speeds. The anonymity you get when using a VPN can help protect you from intentional slowdowns by encrypting your traffic and its destination.
Once a VPN network is created, the maintenance cost is very low. If you decide to use a service provider, the network setup and monitoring are off your plate.
What to Look for in a VPN
Choosing a VPN provider is a major decision, as you are trusting them with your most sensitive data and keeping you secure and anonymous online. There are many VPN services available—upwards of 300. So how do you know you’re choosing the right one?
Keep the following seven tips in mind when picking your VPN provider.
- Logging Policy
- Static IP Address
- Tech Support
This is the main reason you’re using a VPN so it is of paramount importance. Check the level of encryption the provider offers (the stronger, the better). 256-bit encryption is standard in the VPN industry. Some providers offer less-secure 128-bit encryption—these are the ones to avoid.
For the highest level of anonymity, look for a VPN that sends your traffic through multiple servers, preferably with several international locations, instead of just one.
There are a few aspects that separate really good VPNs from mediocre ones, speed being one of them. There are many variables that contribute to the speed of your connection. Look for a VPN that offers options—different configurations depending on different purposes like peer-to-peer activities, streaming, or others.
Choose a VPN that supports a number of platforms and operating systems and offers multi-device availability. A good VPN supports simultaneous connection to your laptop, desktop, and your smartphone with extra room left for other devices.
It is important to know what information the VPN company will store about your internet activities. To ensure your security and anonymity, you want a provider with a “no logging policy”, meaning they will not save (or sell) information about the sites you visit or the files you download.
Having your own dedicated IP address while using a VPN is important. Being the only person to use an assigned address is important in achieving the highest level of accessibility and security.
Make sure any questions you have about your chosen VPN provider will be answered in a timely manner. You want a VPN provider that offers excellent and reliable customer care and tech support. Look for a provider with an extensive FAQ section and dedicated support representatives.
Finally, with the budget constraints common to small businesses, the cost of the VPN will be an important factor in your decision. Free services offer no guarantees in terms of privacy, security and overall performance. And you’ll miss out on so many great features offered by the paid services. Fortunately, many VPN services are affordable, starting at around $4 per month.
Protect Your Business By Setting Up A VPN
A VPN is an important component of your business’ security. With the above tips, you can find one that works for your purposes. Most are easy to install, and there are many great resources to help you install the VPN on your devices or on your router.
And, as always, if you don’t have the time or resources to implement the solution yourself, there is always a team of Nerds ready to help.