The very sudden shift from office-oriented workforce to remote workforce, that this COVID-19 has required of all of us, has caused businesses of all stripes and colors to become suddenly hyper-aware of the functionality of cloud hosted services. Along with it, businesses have grappled with the distinctive security issues that plague internet-connected operations.

Zoom has certainly received its share of ridicule for their failures at end-to-end security. Overnight they were catapulted from the status of a relatively unknown video conferencing service to becoming one of the go-to platforms on which the world can confab in a socially-distant fashion. The exponential increase in customer volume was something Zoom was not ready to handle, and they have been playing catchup ever since. But their lament is a lament that parallels that of businesses large and small everywhere, which suddenly realize the limitations of on-premise systems for handling an off-premise workforce. Fears about the security of personal computers accessing the server, makeshift use of RDPs (which are known to be fraught with security issues) have sounded the alarm in the ears of many network administrators for the need to virtualize a network. But what is the best approach to take?

VDI

VDI stands for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. It is a configuration whereby the business’ server is segmented into virtual desktops, which can be accessed by personal devices from anywhere. This server segmentation is accomplished through a virtual desktop management software. The servers are managed in data centers with advanced security. The VDI solution localizes all business data on the side of the server, in such a way that it is ultimately accessible by all who are authorized, no matter where they are or what device they happen to have at their disposal. The security of the internet connections between it and the outside devices is also handled at the side of the server.

VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This is a configuration whereby the network includes all the devices that attach to it through public internet connections. Therefore, the business data is located on the various devices rather than all centralized on the server, and the VPN software’s job is to encrypt the communication between all the endpoints. VPNs are useful because their application is not limited to business networks – they can secure personal communications over public WiFi networks as well. Never the less, it is important to do your homework on VPNs: some are more secure than others.

VDI versus VPN: Which is best for your business?

The only way to know which to choose for your business, the solution that optimizes the sweet spot where affordability and functionality and ease all come together, is through a deliberation process. For instance, you will have to decide:

  • Are all employees going to be issued laptops for use at home? A VPN network will likely involve users who are issued business laptops that have installed in them the applications of the business. A VPN relies on the devices to do the computing, and the VPN simply the secure go-between. Therefore, company-issued laptops that are uniformly configured are usually part of the plan. You can learn some general insights into what constitutes VPN choices here.
  • If you do not like the idea of business data floating around on various devices at user’s homes, where things can get lost or stolen, then a VDI environment might be the better choice. With it all data is centralized. Plus, any patches or updates that come up will be easier to accomplish, as all the data is centralized at the server instead of being dispersed among user devices.

These are simply the most general of considerations. Of course, other considerations include cost-effectiveness, the size and scope of the workforce to be managed, what kind of applications are used for the business, and so on. VMware recently provided a great blog post that illustrates the many considerations that can go into choosing which is right for a given business.

What we encourage is that every business take the opportunity to realize what this pandemic has given us all the chance to realize: That businesses need to take advantage of virtual technology. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly demonstrated a new business need: that work locations need to be nimble and sometimes unconventional. Virtual technology has been underutilized up to this point. For American businesses to become strong for the future, virtual technology has proven it’s necessity to make that happen.