We Come To Praise VPN Not To Bury It…Yet


JUNE 2017

By: Douglas V. Dimola

Every now and then, we like to give the devil his due. And by “devil,” we mean the Virtual Private Network (VPN).

We’re not saying the VPN is demonic. No, we actually want to tip our thinking cap to the brilliance of the network. Few technologies have had such an impact on the way businesses do business.

Long ago, when the Internet was in its Wild West stage, users sent information across it at their peril. All too often, documents either inexplicably disappeared into the netherworld or were captured by hackers.

This created a dilemma for big businesses and government agencies. They needed the reach and relatively low cost the Internet afforded them versus other intracommunications options. However, they could not risk losing sensitive documents and secrets that were the lifeblood of their operations.

Enter VPN.

VPN established a private connection for these enterprises, sort of a private network over the public Internet. In fact, if you’re reading this at work, chances are it’s being delivered to you via the traditional VPN hub-and-spoke architecture. Your corporate headquarters serves as the hub, while the branch offices are the spokes. VPN (or VPN over MPLS) connects each branch to the hub, where a VPN concentrator gives each branch access to the entire network.

(What keeps all these balls in the air is your IT staff. Love’em or hate’em, your IT staffers spend a lot of time and effort making sure your VPN remains functional, scalable, redundant and secure. Please keep that in mind the next time you want to chew your IT administrator out about a dropped call, choppy video or slow downloads.)

There are many impressive things about VPN. However, perhaps the most amazing is its longevity. The underlying technology was created in… you’re sitting down, right? 1996. To put that into perspective, the 56k dial-up modem was invented in 1996.

Yeah, the 56k dial-up modem.

No matter how many times technicians revise it, marketers rename it, or providers repackage it, VPN is still 20th century technology trying to handle 21st century challenges. It simply wasn’t created to handle remote users, multiple clouds, colocation data centers or other elements of digitization. Which forces enterprises like yours to make a tough but necessary choice.

You can stay with your very familiar, once outstanding but now outdated VPN.

Or you can stay in business.

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