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For today’s CFO operating in the COVID era, shifting employees to remote work has become the norm. And this trend is continuing, as recent Gartner survey results show 74% of CFOs intend to transfer some employees to telecommuting on a permanent basis. As a result, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to secure data in transit and all internet traffic is not only an option, but a necessity.

To help you navigate the now-essential VPN world, SpyGlass technology expense management experts are here to provide the answers you need.

Q1: Why do I need a business VPN?

The short answer is to protect your company’s information. Each time you connect to the internet, your internet service provider (ISP) has access to everything you send. And Congress has given American ISPs the right to record, store and sell the data that passes through their servers.

As secured web connections used by more than 400 million businesses and consumers worldwide, VPNs work by creating a “secure tunnel” that can only be crossed by encrypted data. This tunnel “bores” its way to the receiving end by using tunneling protocols to encrypt sent data and decrypt this information for the receiver.

VPN software is invaluable for small to medium-sized businesses that often lack the IT resources to set up and maintain the service. In addition to creating a safe way to access corporate data online over networks that aren’t encrypted or secure, such as free public Wi-Fi networks, VPNS make it very hard for hackers to pry into confidential data.

Q2: What are the benefits of using a VPN?

There are several advantages for businesses to set up a VPN service. Safe and remote access for employees traveling and working remotely tops the list, in addition to workers or contractors accessing your proprietary information or your customers’ private information from any Wi-Fi connection. Additional benefits include:

  • Secure data sharing. By using a VPN that encrypts the entire internet connection, you can enhance data and ensure a secure connection — allowing your employees to share data safely, whether uploading or downloading files.
  • Increased security. While companies were at high risk for cyberattacks before COVID-19, the pandemic worsens the problem. With so many employees accessing networks via remote connections, hackers are searching for any flaws in network security; VPNs are much more effective than antivirus software programs and firewalls at protecting your data.
  • Easier data management. VPNs make it easier to manage data access securely for companies that use a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy. In addition to allowing employees to connect to the internal network with their own laptops and devices, you can give contractors network and database access from remote locations.

Q3: Can a VPN prevent a cyberattack?

Microsoft found the average cost of a business data breach to be $3.8 million and one-fifth of small businesses suffered a hack, virus, or data breach in 2019. And since COVID-19, the FBI reported a 300% increase in reported cybercrimes. VPNs are an effective way to maintain online privacy and boost cybersecurity, but not all VPNs are secure and anything can be hacked.

Overall, determining if your VPN is secure is based on encryption and how much your VPN leaks. Encryption makes your readable data (plaintext) completely unreadable (ciphertext) in case it’s intercepted when traveling through the internet. Your IP (internet protocol) address is another source that can offer hackers the ability to find your data — especially if a leak is caused by what’s known as the WebRTCbug. To make sure your data is protected, it’s always a good idea to test your VPN security on a regular basis.

Q4: How much does a business VPN service cost?

There are many affordable and reliable VPN services to choose from. But with the spike in VPN usage due to the coronavirus, it’s important to get the best VPN service for your buck.

Most business VPN software solutions range from $8 to $12 per month, but costs vary from provider to provider. Because of this, it’s important to do your homework and look into long-term subscriptions for savings. There are also a wide variety of free VPN services for the mobile workforce, including scaled-down versions of paid versions.

If you utilize a paid VPN service for remote access by employees, it’s important to understand the true Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of using and maintaining your VPN software investment over time. In fact, research shows a system’s software and hardware costs typically represent less than 20% of its TCO, with ongoing technical support, maintenance and labor costs accounting for the remaining 80%. As a result, it’s important to complete an annual technology cost audit of your VPN TCO to get the best value for your service. While VPNs are here to stay, there are ways to make sure they’re working for you — to protect your data and your technology expenses.