Should you outsource your VPN?

Calculate the costs to see if it makes fiscal sense for your company

Deploying your own site-to-site or remote user VPN can be a costly affair. It’s up to you to install, manage, and maintain your VPN equipment, as well as to implement all of the various security policies.

But what if you could hand this task off to someone else? Would it make sense to do so, and just what would you gain?

A growing list of companies provides managed VPN solutions to enterprises. Many of them team up with ISPs, telcos, or local businesses to provide secure remote access. New VPN technologies, such as SSL VPN appliances, are making remote access easier than ever — and VPN solution providers are stepping up their offerings to meet the growing needs of a mobile workforce.

TManage and FiberLink offer both site-to-site and remote user VPNs, along with secure Wi-Fi mobile access. TManage’s site-to-site VPN, for example, is a complete package with: VPN hardware at the corporate and remote sites; remote management of the corporate VPN concentrator; design, procurement, and installation of all hardware; 24-hour monitoring of the VPN; and continuing maintenance and upgrades. For a monthly fee, you get the connectivity you want without the headache of maintaining it.

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Some providers cater strictly to the mobile set by handling Wi-Fi and mobile user connectivity. iPass and Gric focus on mobile users with a network of dial-up numbers and Wi-Fi access points around the globe. Companies with employees who routinely use hot spots may find these solutions especially appealing.

The bottom line in all of this is your bottom line. If you outsource your VPN and remote access needs to a provider, all policy and user management, as well as all technical support, is handled for you. All you see is a bill each month for the service.

Whether you save by outsourcing your VPN depends on the number of sites, accounts, and types of services you need. When doing it yourself, of course, you need to think beyond the cost of the VPN hardware or software and include the cost of maintaining policies and rules, not to mention the cost of training your staff to maintain equipment. Also take into account the cost of keeping spare hardware on hand in case of emergency. As usual, you’ll have to calculate your ROI to see if outsourcing makes fiscal sense.