Reader’s Question: What to consider with remote access?

Posted: March 10, 2011 in Expert Q&A
Tags: , ,

This week, we will answer a reader’s question.  If you would like to ask us a network security-related question, drop us a line at editor@vpnhaus.com

VPN Haus,

It seems remote access is inevitable in today’s world.  I want to offer my employees access to the network while they are on the road or working from home – but I don’t want to compromise any of our security protocols and need to ensure ‘outsiders’ don’t have access to the network.  There are many solutions and services available, it can be overwhelming.  What should I look for in remote access technologies?

Looking to Go Remote

Dear Looking to Go Remote,

We hear you on that one.  There are a lot of options out there today.  However, most companies use either a VPN client or a remote access program, like LogMeIn or Citrix, for remote access.  And while VPNs once had a bad reputation for being… well difficult, they are the most secure and have come a long way in terms of ease of use.

VPNs provide an encrypted tunnel between a private and public network and pass traffic safely and securely.  Whereas the trouble with remote access programs — even if they linked correctly to the network – is that anyone else who finds the log-in creds can break into your network. By using this kind of software you are effectively bypassing any and all firewalls that protects your network.

Think of it this way, imagine leaving one of your first-floor windows with the latch off so just in case you forget your key you can still get in. Well, so can anyone else.  Not exactly the best idea, especially if getting access to your network means getting access to that information you consider sensitive.

Here are some other things to consider when picking a solution:

  • Compatibility – does it work with your employees’ devices (Windows XP, Vista, 7; 32 / 64-bit, etc.) and your existing infrastructure (gateways with Juniper, Check Point, Cisco, SonicWALL, etc.)?  Consider a universal solution that plays well with others.
  • Ease of use – will your employees get frustrated using the technology?  Try to avoid this.  Otherwise, they may end up bypassing the security measures all together.
  • Manageability – can you make changes to policies easy?  Like you said, remote access is inevitable today.  Employees want network access on their home PCs, laptops and smartphones.  Make sure you can manage all of your employees’ devices.

– The VPN Haus Editors

Send us your network security questions at editor@vpnhaus.com.

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