Legacy infrastructure challenges while working remote & how to overcome them

Ever since the pandemic broke out with rapid pace, it has left organisations scrambling for connectivity. VPN became an immediate crutch for giving secure access to network resources within the organization.

VPN usage in the United States has surged during the coronavirus crisis, increasing 124 percent during the two weeks between March 8 and March 22, 2020. The United States reported an increase of over 33,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases during these two weeks. (ref 1)

CountryCOVID-19 cases increase per weekVPN usage increase per week in %
United States33,005124
United Kingdom5,40518
Table 1: COVID-19 and VPN usage increase in selected countries as of March 2020
Note:  Worldwide; March 8 to 22, 2020; 53,000; data is based on weekly users of the Atlas VPN network, wider industry metrics may vary
Source(s): Atlas VPN; Statista

However, VPN suffers from its own design constraints. Traditional VPN infrastructure can be difficult for IT teams to deploy and manage for so many new users in a short period of time, and they’re struggling under the load. 

From the user perspective, VPNs can be complex, especially for those who haven’t used one before. These problems are exacerbated when organizations try to roll out VPN access to their extended workforce of contractors, temporary employees, and partners. VPNs can also increase risk since they extend the organization’s network perimeter, and many organizations assume that every user inside the perimeter is trusted.  (ref 2)

Fig 1: VPNs are built for a pre-cloud, pre-mobile era

As a result, the security risks are increased as there is little control over access to apps, plus the user experience also suffers due to network latency & additional steps to connect. This calls for a distributed network topology known as the Zero Trust Model.

Fig 2: From Data-Center based to Cloud-Centric Network Architecture

Zero-Trust helps ensure that only the right users access the right information in the right context. It delivers the familiar user experience that helps make employees and extended workforce productive inside the office, along with the heightened security and control we seek outside. Therefore, if Zero-Trust is the fastest and surest way to give remote access to users, then it must be complex & expensive, right? Actually, NO.

There are two leading service providers, amongst others, who are giving the tools for free at this moment to get you started with the recommended approach.

Cloudflare is offering unlimited seats of Cloudflare for Teams for organizations of all sizes through September 1, as well as a free 30-minute onboarding session. Cloudflare for Teams enables employees to connect to internal apps easily and safely while working remotely without the need for a VPN.

BeyondCorp Remote Access is a cloud solution—based on the zero-trust approach we’ve used internally for almost a decade—lets your employees and extended workforce access internal web apps from virtually any device, anywhere, without a traditional remote-access VPN.” – Google

Fig 5: BeyondCorp offers much more than a simpler, more modern VPN replacement
  • References
    1. Statista Charts – Worldwide; March 8 to 22, 2020;
    2. Google, BeyondCorp project
    3. Images courtesy Internet, Google, Cloudflare, Zscaler