SDP or VPN: Which is better to secure remote access?

The top reasons behind why organizations should reconsider the protection of their remote access services, given the security, scalability, reliability and flexibility innovations that add the software-defined perimeter (SDP) services to the mix

2Jan

Perimeter-based virtual private networks (VPNs) are deployed to provide employees and contractors with access to enterprise networks. Until recently, this was one of the best mechanisms to maintain secure remote access.

However, having logged in, VPN users get wide access to corporate network resources. Such an approach revolving around the "all or nothing" principle puts sensitive information at potential risk. This caveat has caused a growing interest in the software-defined perimeter (SDP). These solutions perform user authentication and authorization based on predefined policies prior to granting access to specific network areas and applications rather than the whole network.

On the one hand, the number of employees working from home, or even cafes or airports, is increasing these days. On the other hand, the damage ensuing from network intrusions is so big that the downsides of perimeter-based VPN services are becoming more tangible than ever before. In this context, companies are starting to consider such alternatives as SDP solutions, which leverage the zero-trust paradigm.

Below we highlight 10 reasons for this trend:

1. Security issues with traditional VPNs

Enterprises have become more exposed to data breaches. Employees working remotely, as well as migration into the cloud, are factors that complicate effective protection of the network perimeter. Traditional VPN services are too lenient, allowing staff to access much more network areas than they need for their day-to-day work. As a result, these resources assume unwarranted visibility and become more susceptible to compromise.

2. Zero-trust remote access and network isolation

From a security perspective, SDP solutions have a number of advantages over VPN. First of all, there are no zones of trust in this scenario. An IT administrator needs to clearly define and grant user privileges to access specific applications. The users' devices are assigned "point to point" connections. The rest of the network's resources are isolated and remain completely inaccessible. Some SDP solutions allow for continuous authentication as well as the verification of users and/or devices at the packets level, using an ID-based network technology. Security isn't left to chance. The entire network traffic is logged for subsequent audit and analysis.

3. The inconveniences of using a VPN

Every employee who has used an enterprise VPN before knows that these services operate slowly and unreliably. If you are using geographically scattered applications, you will be frustrated about having to connect or disconnect all the time and keep track of the location you are connecting to when accessing an application you need.

4. SDP: connecting once is enough to access everything you need

With the right SDP solution in place, the connected end users can access the necessary applications regardless of their location. Browser-based solutions that don't use software agents facilitate access for employees who use personal devices, as well as contractors, partners and customers.

5. Admins' headache

In the case of migration to the cloud, VPN management becomes complicated. IT administrators have to configure and coordinate VPN and firewall policies in different geographic locations. This, in its turn, makes it harder to prevent unauthorized access.

6. Configuration discrepancies

VPNs need to be configured separately at each data center and cloud. With SDP, administrators can add a network resource to the platform once and then manage all policies in the cloud in a centralized way. One more benefit of using fully cloud-based SDP solutions is that very few things are subject to extra configuration and maintenance when granting access within a data center or virtual private cloud. All activities, including the ones related to security, are performed in the cloud.

7. Expensive scaling

As organizations add new users and increase the number of cloud services they leverage, they spend much more on VPNs and firewalls. The reason comes down to the necessity of purchasing additional licenses and more powerful devices. Scalability costs a fortune.

8. The potential of unrestrained growth

If an organization is using a cloud-based SDP solution, expansion is hardly ever a problem. No matter how many users are being connected and how many applications they need, such a service allows for gradual scaling in the cloud without requiring costly equipment.

9. Flexible but not free of charge

VPNs provide flexibility as they can connect multiple geographically distributed endpoints, data centers and virtual private clouds. However, it takes significant resources and growing expenses to establish and maintain these connections.

10. Connect everything in a hassle-free way

SDP solutions allow companies to provide employees with access to specific enterprise IT resources without raising the bar in terms of control requirements and expenses.

In summary, the deep understanding of secure remote access mechanisms incentivizes organizations that are migrating into the cloud to deploy SDP solutions. Such services implement a custom network access policy for users and resources on an individual basis. These resources stay invisible to unauthorized users, which reduces the potential attack surface. Customer orientation of SDP solutions makes them easier to control, applicable across the board, properly protected, and flexible. These characteristics beat the benefits of traditional VPN services.

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