Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, were designed to help extend the reach of corporate data networks beyond where they’re supposed to reach. Even though VPNs were created several decades ago, they seemed to be the perfect option for companies today. They have low maintenance costs and connect customers, branches, and suppliers to a single network. Using them means businesses don’t have to incur the high costs of dedicated connections.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, there was a growing need for more people to work from home. More companies discovered that VPNs were insufficient for the remote working and hybrid landscape. Additionally, relying on these connections to secure that many employees could work from home presented more security risks. VPNs are only suitable for managing a few employees.
The bottom line is that traditional VPNs are no longer as reliable as they used to be—they’re complex and provide a false sense of security. Times have changed, and so has technology. Here are five alternatives to traditional VPNs to consider as you aim to take your company to the next level.
Factors to Consider Before Looking for VPN Alternatives
As much as we may consider VPNs inefficient, there was a time when companies totally relied on them. When you switch to an alternative, it’s important to consider these factors:
- Think about what you actually need. For instance, how many potential users do you have? What are your security requirements? Do you need to restrict some services or websites?
- Revisit your existing policies.
- Read reviews online. What have other users said about the new VPN you’re considering?
- Consider products that allow you to test-drive before making any financial commitments.
The Onion Router, or TOR, is a browser that capitalizes on VPNs’ imperfect anonymization capabilities using a network mesh of nodes. The nodes are daisy-chained to connect the user to the rest of the network. TOR allows you to browse privately and explore freely. It defends your network from tracking and surveillance by isolating every website you visit, making it hard for third-party trackers and ads to follow your activities.
Most businesses also prefer TOR because it resists fingerprinting. While navigating various websites online, some people might try to fingerprint your activities based on your device and browser information. TOR does away with this possibility by making all users appear the same. Finally, the browser’s multi-layered encryption allows users to encrypt and relay their traffic three times as it goes through the TOR network.
A summary of the advantages of using the TOR browser include:
- It has numerous relays before allowing traffic to reach its destination
- Like an onion, it encrypts its traffic efficiently
- Provides high-level anonymity; not even your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can snoop into your online activities
The TOR browser is suitable for anyone who values their online content and activities.
Whonix is compatible with Windows, OS X, Qubes, and Linux operating systems. Users see it as an alternative to traditional VPNs because it can solve many problems that they cannot. It works closely with TOR to ensure that DNS leaks are impossible—even malware with root privileges can’t discover your real IP address.
The booting process for VM Live Mode is simple and fast. All you have to do is choose it from the boot menu or use Debian or Kicksecure. Whonix takes advantage of two counterpart operating systems: the gateway and the workstation. The workstation plays the role of the client and makes all the traffic pass through the designated gateway, whose main job is to channel the information through the TOR network.
Hacking Whonix is almost impossible, so security is always guaranteed. The only way to hack a Whonix platform is if its workstation is extremely compromised, for example, if you’re using vulnerable virtual machine software that leaks information for use in the guest operating system. This rarely happens, though.
Here is a summary of the reasons why you may want to replace your traditional VPN with Whonix:
- It passes all its traffic through TOR, making network leaks impossible.
- Users can combine it with Qubes operating system for better application sandboxing.
- Workstation only allows communication with the gateway OS, making it completely isolated.
- Even the malware with root access to the workstation can’t obtain your real IP address.
3. Zero Trust Network Access
As its name suggests, the basic principle in a Zero Trust Network model is that no one is trusted. It restricts access to network resources regardless of whether the user has previously accessed the resources or not. To access a resource within a zero-trust network, you have to go through a series of verification and authentication processes even when you or the device being used is within the organization.
Zero Trust isn’t composed mainly of identity, network segmentation, and remote user access services; it focuses on strategies and the ability to build strong foundations through which a healthy cybersecurity ecosystem can be created. It has three tenets: terminate every connection, reduce risk by eliminating the attack surface, and protect data using granular policies based on context.
While it’s true that there is no perfect security strategy, you can rely on Zero Trust to evade data breaches, reduce the attack surface, and decrease the blast radius in case of an attack. At the moment, Perimeter 81, Cloudflare for Teams, TeamViewer, Zscaler Private Access, and Twingate are the most popular examples of the Zero Trust network model.
4. Secure Access Service Edge
Secure Access Service Edge, or SASE, is one of the latest enterprise networking categories that works by converging SD-WAN and Network security point solutions to create a unified, cloud-based service. In the past, these services were offered by point solutions managed by silos and were very expensive and complicated for businesses, which hurt IT agility.
The introduction of SASE allows companies to reduce the time needed to develop new products, take them to the market, and respond to the clients’ needs depending on market trends. SASE comes with benefits such as:
- Faster movement and performance boosting
- Reducing complexity
- Reducing overall costs of networking
Cato SASE is a good example of a SASE platform that you can use as an alternative to traditional VPNs. It’s a cloud-based service available worldwide with the ability to optimally and securely connect all people, branches, clouds, and data centers that you may have. You enjoy diversified services such as:
- Cato management application
- Datacenter integration
- Secure remote access
- Secure as a Service
OpenWRT gives users solutions for problems such as isolating peers, routing connections, specific nodes, and scaling. Rather than have one single, static firmware, this software provides a writable filesystem, complete with its management package. Its main benefits include:
Network security is a basic factor when looking for alternatives to traditional VPNs, and OpenWRT guarantees just that. Its standard installation makes it secure by default, preventing backdoors and poor passwords with disabled Wi-Fi.
If you have used the Linux operating system, you know attacks rarely affected it, making OpenWRT equally resistant to vulnerabilities. With an extremely conservative configuration, users can enjoy full internet connectivity without worrying about exposing their devices to online attacks or malware.
Strong Community Support
Users benefit from the readily available, vibrant community of developers and volunteers who are always willing to help resolve pressing issues. Customer satisfaction is mandatory, and OpenWRT understands that perfectly.
Performance and Stability
Experienced network professionals design every aspect of OpenWRT to provide seamless services. They built a product with their clients in mind. Thanks to the software’s algorithms from the latest research, you enjoy stability and reliability over an extended time. Users enjoy uncompromised and secure services with reduced latency and increased network availability through bufferbloat control algorithms.
OpenWRT comes with over 3,000 packages that are ready for installation. Most of the packages allow users to take advantage of dual-stack connectivity, block ads, reduce latency, prevent your ISP from snooping on your online activities, encrypt your internet connection, and allow your router to be the center for home automation.
The Key Takeaway
The decision to move away from traditional VPNs to other more efficient and less complex options isn’t easy. VPNs have been around for ages and continue to help some businesses get by. But change is inevitable. You have to find ways to move forward, no matter the circumstances. If your business requires you to look for a VPN alternative, you have no option other than to find one that works.
We’ve provided you with a review of the top 5 alternatives to VPNs for you to pick from. Remember to comprehensively assess your needs before signing up for anything.