SSL: The Perfect Choice for Home-Based Telecommuters
The Benefits of SSL
If you’re considering implementing or expanding a telecommuting solution, security, flexibility and control need to be at the top of your list of considerations. While IPsec once represented the industry standard for secure VPN technology, there is broad consensus that SSL is the ideal solution for remote access today.
There is a laundry list of reasons for this, including its portability, easy enrollment, embedded certificate authentication, roaming network traversal, better stability over low-quality network connections and application-oriented focus. Its real strengths, however, lie in its enhanced security, granular policy and access control capabilities, and the ability to handle a wide variety of access device types. SSL gives your remote employees secure access to the network from any location on any device that has Internet access and a web browser.
Your telecommuters and mobile workers aren’t all using the same device to access your corporate network. One of SSL’s unique strengths is that users can access the network from personal or company-provided PCs, Macs, Linux devices and PDAs, including their home computers, hotel or airport kiosks, or even Internet Cafes. It supports any operating system and works on any available network, including broadband, wireless, satellite, 3G, dial-up or EVDO. This gives your telecommuters unprecedented flexibility in how and where they work and ensures maximum productivity from these home-based telecommuters.
Application-level Access Control
The ability to control who, as well as what, devices have access to various resources on your network is an important benefit provided by SSL VPNs. Legacy IPsec remote access solutions connect the user to the network, but SSL VPNs connect users to specific applications. The difference is profound. By providing application-level access, companies with a wide range of applications can provide access to specific ones for each group of users, depending on their unique needs.
In most cases, IT managers will only grant access to applications the user needs to use to do their job. SSL allows you to create policies based on individual or group needs. The sales and marketing departments, for example, might be given access to the CRM system, while HR personnel would not.
Device-level Access Control
This access control extends not just to users, but to the device they’re using to access the Internet as well. IT managers can limit access to resources from public or unsecured devices and grant full access to devices that are managed by the department. This makes sense if you consider the security available on a company-managed PC or laptop, where you know what software is installed and are able to ensure device compliance.
Determining how devices are configured and whether they represent a security risk is a crucial step prior to granting access. A computer in an Internet café or library, by contrast, might not have up-to-date virus and malware protection or might not be able to accept an applet download that’s required to ensure a secure tunnel between the device and the corporate network. An employee can still use this computer, but won’t be able to access their full range of applications.
SSL allows you the ability to customize your own security model and build a flexible policy that grants access relative to the security of each user’s access device. SSL VPNs provide in-depth scanning to assess risk by looking for malware and ensure anti-virus, firewall and other defensive tools are in place. This provides the level of control required to respond to risks before they enter your network.
SSL VPNs offer the robust security required to safely extend business applications to telecommuters and mobile users, as well as business partners, customers and others. SSL VPN technology is compatible with all forms of authentication, from user name and password to strong authentication alternatives, like certificates and tokens. And a variety of encryption algorithms are available for SSL VPNs, including DES and 3DES.
Since SSL VPNs emulate HTTP traffic, it also passes through firewalls without any interference. This makes it ideally suited for mobile workers who have to access your corporate resources from within another secure network.
Business Continuity - the Value Added Bonus
Aside from all the security and flexibility benefits provided by SSL technology, the fact is it can also serve as a robust disaster recovery system, giving quick and reliable access to all your users in the case of a calamity. Since users can securely access business applications through any web browser without requiring special software or a corporate laptop, an SSL VPN can be a cost-effective, reliable and safe way to keep your business up and running, even if your office doors are closed.