A reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN) forms a primary component of a small and medium business’s security perimeter.
It’s like a safe tunnel between computers connected via the internet that allows them to access one another through a network.
Previously, mainly organizations utilized VPNs to link their remote branches or roaming employees with their office network. Now, VPNs have become essential for everyone, including consumers, due to increasing cyber-attacks these days.
Businesses with a good budget have already gone farther into new-age technologies like zero-trust.
But what about business with a low budget?
How do they ensure their security?
This is a big problem as they have limited resources.
According to a report, 43% of all cyberattacks target small-sized businesses, while 40% of SMBs experience around 8 hours of site downtimes due to cyber breaches.
Hence, SMBs need to secure their internet connection, digital assets, and company network by utilizing whatever resources they have. For this, VPN is the top gear they can include in their toolbox, a robust, efficient, and affordable solution.
What’s a VPN?
One of the best ways of securing data in and out of your network could be using a VPN. It encrypts all the online traffic flowing between a VPN server and a smartphone or laptop to secure them.
It does so by masking your device identity and establishes a secure connection for you to browse online. Hence, it becomes tough for hackers to access your confidential data.
Let’s quickly find out some of the benefits of using VPNs.
Bypass location-based restrictions
VPNs bypass restrictions specific to a country, which is why you were not able to access some websites and databases available online previously. A VPN helps you access them online regardless of your location on this earth.
Reduces security risks
By using VPNs, all your network is safe from different sorts of online vulnerabilities. It also keeps your employees away from using public Wi-Fi, which further decreases the number of cyberattacks.
Do you know a VPN can also protect your privacy?
Yes, that’s true.
You will be capable of browsing the internet while maintaining complete anonymity. It has the upper hand compared to web proxies or hideous IP software because VPNs allow accessing both websites and web applications privately.
Better performance and productivity
Implementing a VPN can also increase the efficiency and bandwidth of your network. This is why your workforce can complete tasks faster and achieve better productivity, no matter where they are working. In addition to this, the cost of maintaining a VPN is also very low.
So, if you are up to employing a VPN, you have two categories to choose from:
A commercial VPN
A free VPN service
Commercial VPNs are good with all their features and offerings, but they can cost you good money, which might not be affordable for many small businesses.
Hence, you can try an open-source or self-hosted VPN solution.
Pritunl offers an efficient VPN with complex gateway links and site-to-site links and allows remote users to access local networks. Safeguard the network traffic and users through secure encryption while they connect to public networks.
It is one of the best open-source alternatives to commercial VPNs. It can support thousands of users concurrently and get better control on your server without per-user pricing.
All the Pritunl codes are available publicly on Github, ensuring complete customization and transparency. As the configuration can be done via its web interface, it’s easy to manage everything.
Pritunl encrypts traffic between the server and clients for better security in addition to 2-step authentication with Google Authenticator. It supports clients from both WireGuard and OpenVPN, and it also uses IPsec for VPC peering and site-to-site links.
VPC peering is available on AWS, GCP, and Oracle Cloud. It provides clear documentation, and the solution is scalable. Pritunl allows interconnecting and communication through MongoDB, faster service, and saves you from modifying firewalls.
You can install Printunl on your Linux server or go for Vultr Cloud, which offers a 1-click setup.
Managing VPN servers is tough unless you have something like Outline. This gives you two applications that work hand in hand, Outline Manager and Outline (Client), to effortlessly set up an on-premise or cloud VPN server and share encrypted connections.
Outline is built to evade DNS and IP-based blocking. One can start by downloading Outline Manager and picking up a preferred cloud provider or going in-house. This works with renowned cloud providers, including DigitalOcean, Google Cloud, AWS, Kamatera, etc.
Sharing a VPN connection is done with access keys which one can generate from the Outline Manager. Each such key is unique and gives control to the administrator over the connected users.
Outline Manager is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux, whereas Outline Client (to use the VPN) has native Android, iOS, and desktop applications.
The best part? It’s open-source and free to use.
One of the prominent VPN software – WireGuard, is a simple yet extremely fast and new-age solution that leverages advanced cryptography. This general-purpose solution is designed for embedded interfaces as well as supercomputers alike.
WireGuard is fit for different circumstances and was released initially for Linux kernel, but now it is deployable to other platforms, including Windows, BSD, macOS, etc. WireGuard is easy to configure and deploy, and the connection can be established by exchanging public keys simply.
It can even roam between different IP addresses, and you don’t need to worry about managing connections and the state. It uses advanced cryptography like Blake2, Noise protocol framework, HKDF, etc.
WireGuard also includes Crypto key Routing that associates public keys using tunnel IP addresses. It also offers built-in roaming and allows you to create a WireGuard interface inside the primary network namespace having internet access.
Create VPNs on demand by using Hamachi by LogMeIn as your partner. This VPN hosting service allows you to quickly extend your network security to your distributed teams, remote workers, and mobile workers.
Manage your virtual networks and restore them for end-users with simple clicks, no matter where you are located. Provision your client software easily and quickly to new systems without visiting the site. Run it in your network computer’s background to gain access anytime you need it.
It is available in Premium, Standard, and multiple network subscriptions. Empower your remote users by providing them secure access to all your private network through a centralized gateway without tweaking your routers and firewalls.
You can create a virtual and simple mesh network that can allow remote systems to connect directly to one another, helping your remote employees get all the resources they require. Hamachi secures your communications with AES 256-bit strong encryption for private and public networks.
Using its centralized controls, you can regulate network usage and access, including network authentication, password management, network membership, and network locking. Configure individual default settings for clients and networks with support for restricted, minimal, or full interface modes.
The pricing for Hamachi VPN starts at $49/year for 6-32 computers per network.
SoftEther VPN is one of the most powerful, user-friendly, and multi-protocol VPN solutions. It is probably the only VPN in the world that supports SSL-VPN, L2TP, L2TPv3, EtherIP, IPsec, and OpenVPN, as a standalone VPN software.
SoftEther is open-source software that runs on FreeBSD, Solaris, Mac, Linux, and Windows. It includes a cloning function of the OpenVPN server as well. It supports SSTP VPN if you use Windows 8/7/Vista, which saves you from paying huge bucks on Windows’s server license.
The VPN also strengthens your remote workers by realizing their devices and helps them access VPN remotely from your network. As the VPN has a robust and original SSL-VPN protocol, it can penetrate different types of firewalls. The protocol also has a high-speed throughput plus low latency.
SoftEther utilizes Ethernet instead of HTTP for camouflaging, which is why inspection firewalls can’t detect the transport packets of your VPN. It has strong compatibility with popular VPNs in addition to interoperability.
Some of its features include:
Embedded dynamic-DNS plus NAT-traversal to eliminate the need for static or fixed IPs
RSA 4096-bit and AES 256-bit encryptions
Dual stack with IPv4 and IP v6
Multiple language support, including English, simplified Chinese, and Japanese
Algo VPN constitutes Ansible scripts, simplifying the process of setting up a personal IPsec and WireGuard VPN. It works effortlessly with cloud providers and has secure defaults. Algo VPN supports IKEv2 with stronger cryptography such as P-256, AES-GCM, and SHA2 for macOS, iOS, and Linux.
It also supports WireGuard for the OS mentioned along with Windows 10 and Android. It can generate QR codes and .conf files in addition to Apple profiles for configuring macOS and iOS devices automatically for IPsec; hence, no need for client software.
You can set up a limited number of SSH users if you want tunneling traffic, and the VPN also blocks ads using local DNS resolvers. Add or remove users easily with its helper script.
Install Algo on DigitalOcean, Microsoft Azure, Amazon EC2, Vultr, Scaleway, Google Compute Engine, OpenStack, Linode, Hetzner Cloud, CloudStack, or an Ubuntu server of your own.
utunnel is a premium option to set on-premise and cloud-based VPN servers.
This comes in two flavors: Basic and Advanced. While the Basic subscription is decently powerful, the Advanced tier gives superior features like split tunneling, site-to-site VPN, device filtering, custom DNS, logging, technical support, etc.
utunnel lets you use Open and IPsec protocols and offers obfuscation abilities via the former.
The documentation is great, with guides about setting up servers with prominent cloud providers, including DigitalOcean, AWS, UpCloud, Linode, Vultr, etc.
The highlight feature of utunnel is its fine-grained controls. This allows the admin to grant selective resource access via any web browser without needing any client-side utility. In addition, you can create policies for each business application to provide access to only those who comply.
utunnel assures end-to-end 256-bit encryption. Besides, you can integrate external single sign-on protocols, such as Google Workspace, Azure AD, Okta, and OneLogin.
Lastly, there is a 14-day free trial with on-premise deployment, and one can avail 14-day money-back guarantee for cloud VPN setup.
With a forever free tier and a 14-day full refund guarantee, Konnect is a safe place to start for businesses of all sizes.
Konnect deploys WireGuard protocol to provide maximum speed and security. You can start with Konnect VPN easily with major cloud providers, such as Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, and DigitalOcean. Client-side applications are available for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android.
Konnect admin dashboard allows for efficient user management and control. You can see the no. of connected users, devices, data usage, etc., and the users get a self-service portal for easy setup and profile management.
The free tier allows connecting up to three users and offers community support. The paid plans add more users, premium support, LDAP / AD Integration, updates, etc., and work up to 250 users, beyond which its enterprise package kicks in.
Bonus Tip: things to consider while choosing a VPN
Quality: Check out all the features it provides and cross it with your needs. If it matches, you can consider the VPN. Don’t pay for unnecessary features you are never going to use, as you have limited resources at hand.
Compatibility: Most VPNs are compatible with major platforms like Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, and Linux, but others might not support all of them. In case you use a Windows PC but an iPhone, make sure the VPN you choose offers both platforms.
The number of devices: Some VPNs support unlimited devices connected at once, but others might have limitations. Hence, consider your requirements as to how many devices you want to connect to and then choose a VPN.
User-friendliness: If you are not a tech expert, it might be problematic for you to set up and use a VPN. Therefore, choose the one that you can handle easily. You can also find some VPNs that offer virtual setups, hence, reducing all the heavy lifting.
Affordability: Pricing is always one of the most crucial aspects for SMBs when buying some services. So, buy something which is a good blend of quality offerings and price.
VPNs are great for data security and necessary for remote/hybrid work culture, especially if your business deals with sensitive data. You can do this with on-premise or self-hosting, or cloud VPN providers.
Self-hosted VPN, while being the ultimate option for flexibility and control, requires in-house management. And this can turn messy if your team lacks a networking expert.
In that case, the best option is going with cloud VPN services like NordLayer, GoodAccess, etc., for a complete hands-off deployment.
Durga Prasad Acharya is a Freelance Technical Writer who loves writing on emerging technologies, such as AI & ML, Cybersecurity, Web Hosting, SaaS, Cloud Computing, and more. Besides writing, he’s a web designer and is passionate about… read more