Ask an MSP ExpertQ: We are now supporting more clients with remote workers than we ever have before. We see using VPNs as a very useful tool for helping to securing their workforces, but some clients are reluctant to use them. What can MSPs tell these clients to convince them of the importance of and need for employing the use of VPNs?

Given the state of most of the world currently, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the global response to limiting its spread and severity, many businesses have transitioned their employees into working remotely, often from their own homes. Of course, many of these new ‘home offices’ don’t have the same technological capabilities of the regular office building (or other place where the business normally resides) to ensure that all business activity is conducted securely. While other options can work, some MSPs have heavily used virtual private networks (VPNs) to great success in securing their clients’ employees who are working remotely.

Smarter MSP spoke with Nathan Bradbury, Systems Engineering Manager at Barracuda MSP, and Mark Ballegeer, Systems Engineer at Barracuda MSP, to gather tips for MSPs on better communicating their recommendation to clients effectively. Nathan and Mark offered their suggestions on the capabilities and functionalities of VPNs that MSPs should be highlighting to clients with remote workforces to best convince clients about the necessity of these technologies.

Selecting the right VPN set-up

Nathan begins, “This is a question I regularly get asked by partners. Before deciding if a client needs a VPN, I always start by asking, ‘Why would they need a VPN?’ Is it for device security, securing accessing resources, or some other reason?”

He went on to explain that, often, simply enabling DNS over HTTPs can provide similar value to what some of these providers offer and ensure protected access to appropriate DNS records. He finds that private VPNs (non-split tunnel) provide far better security when appropriately maintained and secured over a Public VPN.

Nathan also offered that there are some other options, one of which is a product that provides advanced URL filtration and malware protection. This allows providers to set granular policies to prevent users from accessing sites they shouldn’t whether they are secured with transport layer security (TLS) or not. Additional benefits to using an agent-based filtration product are the reduction in bandwidth utilization, especially when on cellular or terrestrial links. By blocking just a few common advertising websites, usage can drop by more than 10 percent.

Securely accessing internal resources would be another good example of when a private VPN makes sense, according to Nathan. With the digital transformation of businesses to Office 365, private VPN usage has been steadily on the decline as they are no longer needed to access common unstructured data securely. Private VPNs make sense when needing to securely access an internally hosted line of business applications that haven’t been moved to a SaaS-based solution.

Examine the client’s needs

Mark further emphasized Nathan’s earlier points, while reminding MSPs to remain customer-focused when offering VPN set-up to clients:

“Ultimately it’s all about security and productivity. The common use case these days is that businesses need to make sure that they can continue to function in times of crisis without risking the loss of sensitive information and remaining compliant. This can mean different things for different organizations.”

Mark also noted that it can depend on how much access certain users need. Some people may only need to access corporate resources a couple times a day to upload data, while others may need an experience as if they are in the office. Still, certain employees may only need access on a mobile device to occasionally retrieve information.

As always, strong communication and teamwork will prove to be vital in this scenario for an MSP, stresses Mark. Regardless of the situation, MSPs need to work with their customers to ensure that their information stays secure and the right people have access to the resources they need.

Keeping the focus on how the specific capabilities of the ideal VPN best fit a client’s individual situation will be the best way to convince them to add VPNs to the numerous new remote ‘home offices’ of their employees. From there, an MSP can prove its worth by limiting the cybersecurity and technological headaches that a client experiences on a regular basis – a goal that becomes much easier to achieve with VPNs in place.

Photo: spaxiax / Shutterstock

Bill Petherbridge

Posted by Bill Petherbridge

Bill is a Content Marketing Associate at Barracuda MSP. In this position, Bill is a key contributor to the management of the SmarterMSP.com and Barracuda MSP blogs. He also serves as copyeditor for Barracuda MSP content, in addition to maintaining Barracuda MSP's social media presence.

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    As opposed to a VPN, we are also utilizing SharePoint / OneDrive and other collaboration tools. This has been a driving force as of late and if you setup the correct policies, it can even be more secure than a VPN is.

    Reply

  2. Avatar
    Sharon Vanhoose April 27, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Great read – right now it is critical for remote users to have a VPN

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    I think any VPN discussion needs to start with what are you trying to accomplish. I tend to divide this into 3 groupings:
    – Remotely access internal corporate resources
    – Connect satellite offices
    – Protect end-point traffic

    Once done, you can determine if you should leverage existing resource or do you need to deploy a new solution.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    VPNs are great resources. As with anything there’s a cost when we move the cheese. Cloud services negate some use of VPN but not all.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    I am not an advocate of VPN but sometimes it is necessary to make everything work. This is solid advice for configuring VPN connections.

    Reply

  6. Avatar
    Eric Goldstein April 29, 2020 at 8:10 am

    This article is very informative and helpful for our clients needs.

    Reply

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