Since the rise of cloud computing, the public internet has been the default connectivity network that carried data and resources between business offices and cloud data centers. These internet connections worked well enough for organizations that maintained adequate firewall protections or weren’t subject to data privacy compliance requirements. But the fact remained that if organizations didn’t secure their connection to the public cloud or if their firewall wasn’t up to date, these businesses ran the risk of having their connections to the cloud hacked and their data exposed.
For organizations that handle sensitive data or that are subject to data privacy regulations, a dedicated private network has become a much more secure option for connecting to the public cloud. Unlike the public internet, a private network is a set of secured connections between a controlled number of computers. A private network is completely isolated from the public internet. Data that moves across a private network is not accessible to anyone outside the private network while in transit, and therefore doesn’t require encryption to be secured. The data is protected based on the network’s extremely limited access from the outside.
Private networks offer businesses the assurance that their valuable data and resources only traverse private infrastructure on the way to and from the cloud. And besides the enhanced security, private networks also offer faster, more reliable connectivity than the public internet, which can suffer from bandwidth shortages.
However, the conditions that have made dedicated private networks an attractive option for organizations to transmit valuable data to and from the cloud have altered with the COVID-19 pandemic and with the shift to remote workforces. To remain productive while working from home, workers need to connect to their organization’s private network and access cloud resources, but in most cases must do so over their residential broadband services, supported by the public internet. But to connect to the organization’s secure private network via the internet potentially exposes the entire corporate infrastructure to hackers and other disruptions. How can remote workers securely access private network resources from residential Wi-Fi? Or how can dedicated private networks extend to securely reach a distributed workforce?
One way to securely connect remote or mobile workers on the public internet is through virtual private networks (VPNs). VPN connections are highly encrypted, and when used over typical household internet, offer a similar level of security as private networks by creating secured tunnels between configured devices. However, VPN connections can be tricky to configure and maintain, often requiring skilled staff to deploy on site— which presents new risks given ongoing COVID lockdowns that prevent working with others face-to-face, since VPNs cannot be implemented quickly and easily with a remote workforce.
Stepping forward to address the secured networking needs of remote workers is a new generation of enterprise-grade office network appliances that provide businesses and their dispersed workers with the experience of an on-site local area network (LAN) with the same functionality and security of a dedicated private network. These devices are typically preconfigured with cryptographic protocols to make secure connections with corporate firewalls to replicate corporate security rules locally and to all network traffic flowing to and from remote workers. This removes the need for complicated configurations or complex VPN setups—the appliance connects directly to existing household broadband services, and even though data flows over third-party internet connections, network traffic is protected by the corporate firewall.
These types of LAN appliances enable organizations to quickly and easily extend their private networks to the edge, by locking down secured connections across residential Wi-Fi. Not only does it increase security for vital data and network traffic, but it allows allow businesses to maintain the productivity of at-home employees by offering familiar workflows and interfaces, just as if they were in the office, along with enterprise-grade reliability.
Organizations need to consider how they can extend the benefits of dedicated private networks to remote or hybrid workforces, these LAN appliances are a new method of doing so. They help ensure that business can stand up a mobile workforce quickly and securely in times of crisis or emergency, or address the ongoing secure networking requirements of a dispersed workforce.
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