VPN’s are great BUT they are not perfect for everyone

Most regular remote workers will connect back to their office using a VPN to access resources on the company’s local network.  These are usually reliable but during the current pandemic, almost everybody wants to use one and it’s not always the best or most reliable solution depending on your setup and circumstances.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, put simply it’s a secure connection (usually referred to as a tunnel) made over the internet. Basically, a secure network connection established over an insecure network.

VPN’s are usually quite easy and quick to setup when everybody uses the same protocols and settings and connect over the same or similar networks.

The problems we are seeing is that many suddenly faced with using these for the first time are using lots of different devices requiring lots of different protocols and have differing expectations on how it should work.

Ideally you should simply establish a connection, then open the resources you need BUT, remember when you’re sat at your desk and accessing a resource on the network, you are likely to have a connection speed of around 100 to 1000Mbps.  With a VPN Connection you may only have a 5, 10 or 15Mb connection if you’re lucky so IT IS NOT GOING TO BE ANYWHERE NEAR AS QUICK!

You also need to factor in that the internet is currently under much more pressure than usual with so many people working remotely and many people including kids streaming movies and playing online gaming which all reduced available bandwidth and increases contention.

Most home broadband connections are contended so they are shared with those around you using the same cabinet and infrastructure.

There are many articles online about the current internet pressure like this one:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8146529/Global-internet-pressure-map-shows-coronavirus-puts-stress-internet-infrastructure.html

There are also many problems that can affect a VPN such as:

Many users using different devices to connect may need different protocols enabling or configuring. Changing this for one user’s device can stop others devices from working.

You can and do end up with people using tablets, computers, smart phones, chrome books etc, all using different hardware devices and connection to try and connect back to one device that has to be able to service requests from all of them.

Sub-Net clashes

Many people use the same IP range at home and at work so the VPN can struggle working out what is local and what is remote.

Router based restrictions

Some routers like those used by TalkTalk have built in protection that can interfere with remote access software and VPN’s.

Some shared working spaces will not allow some VPN protocols over their access points.

iPhone Hotspots no longer pass PPTP traffic over their connections (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) this is a recent change that stopped many VPN’s working overnight!

Speed

Using a VPN adds security but will also reduce throughput speed.  On a contended circuit, this may be significant enough to stop it working reliably.

What other Options are available?

Remote desktop access using third-party tools

Splashtop.com offer a free trial of their remote access software that allows you to control your desk PC from anywhere with any device and does not require a VPN.

Office 365

You can use the Web Based applications to access your files and email without a VPN.

You can use office tools like SharePoint and OneDrive to access documents direct from the cloud with no need to connect back to the office.

Handy Tips

Ofcom have released an article on their website with tips on helping the work from home experience:

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/phones-telecoms-and-internet/advice-for-consumers/stay-connected

If you need any more help, please contact us:

Contracted customers: support@cirrusits.co.uk

Non-Contracted Customers: hello@cirrusits.co.uk