How to choose between VPN and ZTNA for secure hybrid work

Hybrid work is the new norm, so it’s essential you equip remote workers with secure access to the tools they need to be productive. Learn the pros and cons of VPN and ZTNA for secure hybrid work.

ARTICLE | 5m read
Feb 22, 2020

In a Q4 survey of 400 IT and security leaders across the world, all 400 said they planned to adopt a hybrid working model for the foreseeable future. Hybrid work has gone from a novelty to the norm. But as we approach the two year mark of Covid-19 forcing global organizations to adapt to remote work, we must implement long term security solutions for our distributed workforces. This means protecting your hybrid employees while giving them access to the tools and data they need to do their best work from any device or location.

Secure access solutions have become essential to protect your organization from the top threats of ransomware and insider attacks. But is your current secure access solution actually stopping these threats? Between Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), choosing the right secure access solution is not simple. Drawing on a Pulse poll of 95 IT leaders on remote work security, this article will help you understand these options and adopt the secure access solution that fits your needs.
 

Is a VPN enough security for your hybrid workers?

With 70 percent of surveyed IT leaders using VPNs for remote access to internal resources, VPNs remain a popular tool for hybrid work security. By providing an encrypted connection on devices managed by your IT team, VPNs stop unauthorized users from accessing the online activity of hybrid workers. This makes VPNs like requiring a key to open the locked door that protects your company resources; this approach works so long as the key doesn’t fall into the wrong hands or the door isn’t left open.

However, VPNs are not enough security to keep your sensitive data safe from new threats. Because social attacks like ransomware and phishing target your hybrid employees directly instead of your network, VPNs can do nothing to stop these attacks from exploiting the door to your network being left open. VPNs also require employees to only use IT-managed devices to access company resources, which is a problem in the BYOD age. And by slowing the performance of cloud applications, VPNs can frustrate your remote workers and lead them to look for workarounds that expose you to more security risk.
 

How ZTNA delivers robust security for your distributed workforce

There are more secure remote work solutions than VPNs, and one of the most effective is ZTNA. ZTNA is a comprehensive approach to network security that provides adaptive access to cloud and SaaS apps based on context like identity, time, and device posture. ZTNA solutions often include multi-factor authentication requirements to verify user identities and single sign-on (SSO) tools to simplify the user experience. Deploying ZTNA ensures hybrid workers are continuously verified in real time to provide more rigorous security than a VPN. If a VPN is a key to the locked door of your network, ZTNA is adding a guard who watches the door to ensure only the right users get in—and who checks regularly to make sure those authorized users are who they say they are.

This zero trust approach both equips remote users with anywhere access to the apps and data they need to be productive and minimizes the risk of cyber threats and data breaches. However, only 18 percent of surveyed IT leaders have adopted ZTNA for their remote and hybrid workers. This implies that many organizations need to rethink their VPN-first security strategy and adopt a zero trust approach to protect their distributed workforce and the doors to their network.

 

Protect the door to hybrid work with zero trust network access

Over the next two years, 44 percent of technology leaders are planning to adopt ZTNA for better remote work security, and 39 percent plan to stick with legacy VPN technology. As your organization designs its long term strategy for secure hybrid work, you must ensure the doors to your network are monitored and protected. This means joining the 44 percent of technology leaders who recognize ZTNA’s clear advantages over VPNs and don’t require virtualization for their distributed workforce. By adopting zero trust for remote workers, you can empower your employees to be safe and productive wherever they do their best work.

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