When choosing between IPSec and SSL, you might find you need both kinds of VPNs.
Mobile workers are a fact of life for most small businesses and that is often a good thing—for both the company and the employee or contractor. Users who have remote access to your small business network from their home offices or while traveling tend to be more productive and can helps save your company money. The trick, of course, is making sure that the mobile connections to your network are secure. For that, you need an encrypted virtual private network (VPN), which lets remote users safely connect to your network from any location with Internet access.
There are two different types of VPNs: Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Both VPNs allow you to remotely access network resources—providing a secure and private link to your network via the public Internet—but in different ways. Choosing the one that’s right for your small business depends on your existing (or planned) network hardware and the type of users who need remote access to the applications and data on your network.
IPSec vs. SSL VPNs
An IPSec VPN provides secure access to your entire small business network by encrypting data traveling between an IPSec gateway, which is installed on a router or security appliance, and an IPSec remote access client installed on an employee’s laptop or smartphone. An IPSec VPN gives users a network experience similar to sitting in the office with native access to all your applications.
An SSL VPN allows users to securely access only specific applications and services on the network via a web browser and is ideal for those small businesses that want to offer secure access to partners, contractors, consultants and suppliers by providing access to only specific applications and services inside their business network. An SSL VPN uses a web browser’s security capabilities to secure private network traffic. No special client application is necessary, so users can log into an SSL VPN from any device with a browser and an Internet connection. Because SSL VPNs use an Internet protocol, the applications users access through this type of VPN must be web-enabled.
In general, an IPSec VPN is more secure than an SSL VPN because it requires a special client and can’t be accessed by non-sanctioned Internet devices, like a public PC at the local library. It also gives employees access to more applications that don’t need a web version to function over the VPN. On the other hand, an SSL VPN makes it easier to give users access to web-based services such as email.
Should you choose one VPN over another, or both?
When deciding which type of VPN to install, the question isn’t so much “Which one is better?” but “Which one is better for my business?”. Both VPNs have their advantages, and you might even decide you need a “hybrid VPN”—an IPSec VPN for a certain group of users such as employees who need to access all the applications and data within the network and an SSL VPN for providing controlled access to specific applications and services that are pertinent to contractors, consultants, suppliers and partners etc.
In fact, depending on which hardware you choose to provide VPN functionality for your business, you don’t necessarily have to choose between the two VPN types. For instance, the Cisco Small Business RV Series Routers has built-in IPSec VPN functionality, and some models, including the RV220W Wireless Network Security Firewall offer both IPSec and SSL VPNs.
See how a Connecticut law firm, Peck & Tuneski, uses a Cisco small business VPN to increase their productivity and billable hours.
Are you currently using a VPN for remote offices or mobile employees? Which did you choose—an IPSec or SSL VPN?
When choosing between IPSec and SSL, you might find you need both kinds of VPNs