SMBs Need VPNs Too

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Small business owners have many things on their mind but IT security should not be one of them. Not so long ago, network protection for a small business amounted to maintaining a firewall and some antivirus software. Now, recent technology advances have blurred the boundaries between the company perimeter and the world at large.

Consumerization of IT and flexible working mean employees now need secure, private remote access to company resources from their own devices at any time of day from anywhere in the world.

This translates into increased risk to the business and the potential for higher levels of stress for business owners, especially if they take on fixing security issues in person. A small business requires additional protection, particularly once they begin to expand. This is where remote access Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for employees and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can help.

Small Business, Big World

The owner-manager of a small business has to be a jack of all trades. Unless they operate an IT services company, their IT security skills are likely to be in short supply. They may stretch to periodically check that antivirus and firewall software is working properly and protecting the office network. However, for most small companies the Internet is fast becoming the primary way to communicate. This includes making workers more productive by allowing people to work remotely on their own equipment or to save work to a shared drive sitting remotely in the cloud. Inevitably this means expanding the network perimeter to include employees’ own personal equipment, often with different operating systems and applications to those in the office.

Growing Target for Threats

As a business grows, the IT’s threat profile changes.  When just a handful of individuals are in the business the risks are relatively low. Research has shown that as a business grows, the level of concern about the security risks posed by employees and vendors rises. For example, just one-in-five companies with less than 10 employees are concerned about employee credentials becoming compromised compared with 30% of businesses with up to 100 employees. Increased risk leads to higher stress levels, especially for those small business owners who chose to resolve all cyber security problems in person. Statistics show small business owners are right to be concerned. In recent years, small businesses cyberattacks have been on the rise. According to Symantec the proportion of attacks against small business has risen from 18% in 2011 to 43% on 2015.

Privacy by Design

Ever since Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 how the fight against terrorism had led the U.S. government to award itself powers to surreptitiously spy on everyone, the issue of privacy has become a top concern for businesses of all sizes. Further pressure comes from governments and regulators everywhere who are proposing to bring in tougher penalties for businesses who allow sensitive customer information to leak into the public domain. The UK’s new data protection bill, for instance, will contain a clause making it a criminal offence to “intentionally or recklessly re-identify individuals from anonymised or pseudonymised data”.  Similarly, the EU’s incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) invokes the principle of “privacy by design” whereby organizations must ensure data protection principles and appropriate safeguards are addressed and implemented in any new product or service. Such safeguards are increasingly important as companies release more and more smart devices onto the market. Everything from smart cameras, connected cars, home appliances and IP-connected industrial systems produce a constant stream of data that, if intercepted, could have severe consequences for privacy.

Benefits of VPN

Faced with so many external pressures, it is vital for a growing business to be confident that sensitive data concerning customers and clients will remain private and confidential regardless of how employees and IIoT devices access it. The answer lies in deploying a remote access VPN to provide secure communications for employees and suppliers, encrypting all data transfers between them and the company as it passes across Internet. A remote access VPN provides the small business with several key benefits. Firstly, it ensures all data communications is private by encrypting traffic, effectively hiding it from the eyes of unwelcome outsiders. It also promotes greater employee productivity by extending the business network and applications far beyond the office perimeter. Finally, a VPN helps the business cut its communications costs.

In summary, remote access VPNs provide everything a growing business needs to allow workers private access to company resources regardless of location. In an increasingly connected world, VPNs play an invaluable role keeping sensitive company information from remote workers and IIoT equipment private and compliant with data protection regulations.