Why Your Small Business Needs a VPN

Virtual private network (VPN) use is on the rise – one in four internet users had employed it by the end of 2018.  Many of them – over 50% – were actually seeking access to better entertainment. But the potential applications for business are already recognized, as 30% used it to access files at work. That percentage has got higher ever since as there are many reasons for small businesses to turn to VPNs as well. 

But first, a bit of explanation.

What is a VPN?

Connect two computers together, and you’ll have a private network entirely separate from the internet. It would be very secure, but impractical on a world-wide scale. That’s why VPN technology was created. It mimics that private connection while using the infrastructure of the internet.

That degree of privacy is achieved by using digital encryption. Once you open a connection with a VPN client, it automatically makes all the data leaving your device look like unreadable garbage for anyone who is not intended to see it. 

This encrypted data is routed via the VPN provider’s server. Therefore, it obtains the internet protocol (IP) address of the server. This means that your IP – the most identifiable digital footprint – remains secret. The VPN obfuscates the contents of data you transmit online and even hides the fact that it was you who sent it.

As we noted at the beginning, most people use it to overcome geo-blocking on Netflix and YouTube. However, there are good reasons for a small business to get into VPNs. 

  • Increased security via encryption and IP obfuscation 

Whenever your employees do anything online, they’re leaving an IP trail behind. It’s also not that hard to set up a website to harvest visitor’s IP addresses – you can even find short and easy guides on doing it. This IP address can then be used to identify where your small business is located physically.  

More than that, when the IP is coupled with a port number it becomes a huge risk. A “port” is a purposeful opening in your security to allow outside connections to reach your computer without being requested beforehand. Knowing an IP and port combination can allow relatively easy access to your system

Your actions are also recorded by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) that can connect your IP to your browsing history. A similar system allows the ISP to engage in “DNS hijacking,” which enables it to reroute you to the websites it wants you to see.

VPNs overcome all that. The IP of the VPN server replaces your IP. And since your data is encrypted and routed via the server, your ISP can’t know what you’re doing online. Even better, this also spoils any chance for “DNS hijacking.”

  • Remote access to the cloud 

A small business doesn’t have the money or the need to set up its own intranet infrastructure. With the recent rise in collaborative tools – 67% of companies entrust their collaboration work to the cloud – they don’t even need to. Google Drive is but the most easily accessible – there are many others. 

And that’s why it’s important for businesses to secure and encrypt their connections. With a VPN, access to these services can be done in secrecy and security. Even if your data is intercepted online, the hackers wouldn’t be able to read it due to encryption. In the end, using these third-party services becomes as secure as if you were hosting your own infrastructure.  

  • Public Wi-Fi security

This one is important to everyone: small business owners, employees, digital nomads, etc.. While traveling, you may not always have the chance to access a secure connection. That’s when public Wi-Fi becomes very handy. 

But public Wi-Fi is not secure. It isn’t too hard to set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots or use other measures to intercept your Wi-Fi communications. That way, a hacker can collect login information as well as actual data. 

The universal solution to this issue is getting a VPN. As it encrypts all the data you send out, anything that is intercepted can’t be read by hackers. That way, you or your employees can work remotly without compromising security. 

  • Spoofing location and overcoming censorship

The ability to spoof your geographical location is essential both to your job and the quality of life. 

For the former, making the internet think that you’re in another country is great for research. Say you’re working in Germany, but you need to see what Google search results are displayed in Costa Rica. You can do that by connecting to a Costa Rican server.

Or imagine trying to do your work from China. If you’re using Google Docs or DropBox, if you need to maintain an Instagram account, or your illustration work requires access to Flickr, you can’t do that in China without a VPN

What’s more, you can see how access to social media websites and entertainment services like Netflix can be bad for your traveling employees. What’s more, not all streaming content libraries – or even services – are available around the world. With a VPN, you’re not only securing your connections. You’re also ensuring that you or your employees can feel like at home while traveling at least virtually. 

  •  Cheaper than going unsecured

Recent data shows that 43% of the victims of digital breach attacks are small businesses. Their effects aren’t small potatoes, either. With the mean cost of the largest incident reaching $200,000 in 2019, it has shown a six-fold increase over the previous year. Consequently, 10% of small businesses that experienced them had to close down. 

Now let’s compare it to the costs of getting a VPN. The plans can go as cheap as $2 a month. Many of the leading VPN providers support five or more installs per account. This means that you can secure either five computers in your office or put a VPN client on every device an employee has. These VPN clients are easy to install while the costs of maintaining the physical infrastructure are borne by the provider. This makes it a very economical solution for security. 

In conclusion

Whether you’re a small business, a freelancer, or a digital nomad, you work with client data, and that’s why you need a VPN to secure your connection. With encryption, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your data isn’t intercepted. You’ll be able to work from wherever you want, as you won’t be beholden to the whims of the local government or the ISPs. At the end of the day, a VPN can even help you and your employees unwind via ensuring greater access to entertainment.  

Chung Nguyen