May 18, 2020
This new way of working remotely, just might be hanging around. So, while most people and businesses are finding their way with the new norm (and in some ways benefiting from working like this), others are not. One area that we worked on recently for a business was their VPN (Virtual Private Network) and an area that can make significant improvements to how you are operating. Especially, if we are in this for the longer term!
What does a VPN mean?
Well it is super important for your company’s security and safety. If you want your staff to make a secure connection to your office, you need a VPN. To have a VPN, then you need a VPN endpoint. Your endpoint will be your firewall or a server and ideally it will be able to recognize you whatever device you are using. A great analogy is that an endpoint is like bouncer at a private party – they check your name, see if you’re on their list and then let you in. It doesn’t matter if you’re Windows, or Apple or wearing a silly Linux hat – there’s one queue and one doorman to convince.
But unfortunately life isn’t like that, particularly with everything we’ve got going on at the moment. The practicalities mean that some companies are now operating a patchwork of endpoints. These are so they can cope with different devices or, worse still, opening fire-doors to enable less secure access and scarily hoping for the best.
How to create an Open Source OpenVPN
We faced this patchwork problem a few weeks ago for a local public sector supplier. They needed access for all sorts…Windows, Apple, Android and Linux devices – frankly it was a very varied and colourful queue. The option was to completely replace their firewall with one approach – a simple, homogenized solution. However, this would have been expensive, disruptive and given that their staff are currently scattered across several counties, really difficult to do effectively.
The best solution was to implement an Open Source OpenVPN server on their network and then migrate their users to it. This is a very light system and we simply created a virtual server on their existing network and gave users access to connect and download the software. Because we weren’t making a change to the network hardware, we could move users across individually and see the connections centrally as they appeared. But most of all, the interface was the same whatever device the people were using. This simplified the whole process and also makes it much easier to maintain.
What are the costs involved in having an OpenVPN?
The great news is that OpenVPN as a product is free. Then you need to bear in mind the licensing costs which are around £20 per user per year, with a minimum of 10 users. From our perspective it took us a few hours to set up using just a GB of RAM (so in basic speak that is not much memory at all!) and a small amount of disk space on an existing Windows server.
Sounds tricky? Not really; but you do need to know what you are dealing with. So if you think this might be what you need, then why not give us a call and we could chat through how you are operating at the moment and if this is the best approach.