Posts Tagged ‘IT’

By Bernd Reder

As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, the methods by which users access critical business tools must evolve in kind. In the past, the desktop environment and all of the resources it hosted were only accessible if an individual was sitting right in front of his or her computer. But now, with the advent of laptops, tablets and smartphones, we’re seeing a paradigm shift—one in which digital assets are no longer imprisoned by local hard drives.

Virtual desktops allow employees to remotely access their traditional systems from any location, eliminating device storage concerns as well as numerous other headaches for IT managers. For example, if the IT department had to install a suitable desktop environment on every device used by every employee throughout the company, then provide technical support and roll out regular patches for each one, the workload would likely far exceed the department’s capacity.

A Central Virtualized Desktop

With virtual desktops, individuals working off-site can still access all the tools held within their office work stations, from the operating systems to essential applications and associated data. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it is more practical and less cumbersome for IT administrators. All sensitive information and tools are housed and managed in a secure location, mitigating the risks to company data if a security breach compromises an employee’s mobile device.

All of the company resources being accessed remotely are stored in secure data centers. Rather than having to constantly update and patch the myriad of tablets and smartphones that workers use while outside the office, IT managers can focus on deploying security measures that govern remote access privileges. Though this doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of an attack against an employee’s mobile device affecting the organization, it greatly reduces those risks—more so than any alternative—and better equips IT personnel to safeguard important information.

According to a survey from U.K.-based market research firm Visiongain, more than half of U.S. respondents are either planning to virtualize their desktops or are considering exploring this option within the next 12 months. Visiongain also states that the world market for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) products reached $11.6 billion in 2012, and predicts annual growth of almost 15 percent through 2015.

Where VPNs Come Into Play

Paramount to any VDI is a secure link between the virtual desktop and the device being used by an off-site worker to access it. As such, VPNs are indispensable. They ensure that data is transported across a secured, encrypted connection.

However, this is far from a “one-size-fits-all” solution. On-the-go employees will often use various mediums to connect to their virtual desktops, including public Wi-Fi networks at airports and hotels or local networks at the offices of current or prospective clients. A company’s VPN system has to be configured to securely handle all of these options if users are going to be able to safely and efficiently access their virtual desktop environments. What’s more, VPNs must be able to seamlessly handle transitions from one medium to the next, such as LAN to Wi-Fi, so that the connection is not lost or processes are not interrupted at inopportune times. If access proves problematic, the benefits of VDI begin to dissipate.

In order for companies to tap into the benefits of virtualized desktops, they must invest in robust VPN solutions that account for all possibilities and automatically initiate the proper security settings based on the communication medium an employee is using. Whether in a coffee shop with public Wi-Fi or another office location within the same organization, the VPN should be able to manage them all. Such a task is perfectly fitted to a dynamic personal firewall. Where run-of-the-mill VPN systems might fail, expertly developed and well-matured solutions will not.

Today, Rainer Enders, VPN expert and CTO of Americas at NCP engineering, addresses how IT and data management executives can properly protect their corporate data.

Q: What are the most effective steps IT and data management executives need to take in ensuring the best security for corporate information?

Rainer Enders: There is no substitute for best-of-breed security solutions. IT managers must realize that only betting on one vendor for all security needs will leave security holes in the architecture. A key starting point is the assessment of risk and exposure. For example, if you do not have employees working outside the office, you’ll have far different security implications than if you have a large mobile workforce. Obviously, the cost of the solution must match the assets at risk that will be insured and protected against damage or loss. A clear and concise security policy must be established that involves all the key stakeholders, and the policy must then be implemented and enforced at all levels. This is probably the most important and, sadly, the least followed advice.

Another trap many IT managers fall into is changing security infrastructure too quickly. Rather then taking a blended migration approach, a rip-out-and-replace approach is usually implemented, neglecting benefits and merits of existing incumbent security technologies. This has happened when SSL VPN was introduced to replace IPsec VPN. Customers followed early promises, only to see many companies now returning to the “old” IPsec VPN or adopting a hybrid approach, which would have served them better from the start. So any security architecture framework should follow the technology, not a vendor product roadmap.

If you have any questions on VPNs or anything else related to secure remote access, send them to editor@vpnhaus.com. 

Rainer Enders is CTO, Americas, at NCP engineering.

A little while back, we began a series of “get to know you” polls in an effort to better shape our content. In a June poll, we asked about your positions within your organizations, with results showing an even split between IT and marketing, with sales also being a popular answer. We found the results quite interesting, and they led us to wonder – in what industry vertical do you work that makes remote access and network security of interest? As always, feel free to elaborate in the comments.

To help better shape our content, we at VPN Haus would love to get to know you – and your interests — better. To do this, we have initiated a series of “get to you know” polls. The second in our series deals with your OS of choice. We invite you to participate and enjoy the weekend!

To help better shape our content, we at VPN Haus would love to get to know you – and your interests — better. To do this, we are kicking off the first in a series of “get to you know” polls, starting with today’s question. We invite you to participate and enjoy the weekend!