Virtual private network (VPN) services are hot commodities as businesses struggle to keep remote workers and telecommuters connected and manage the high costs of connecting branch offices to headquarters. Consultants can help clients discover the cost savings and flexibility that VPNs can offer.

We asked our consultant members how often they were asked to provide VPN services, how their clients most often used them, and what their greatest concerns were. Not surprisingly, respondents said their clients are as concerned about the quality of their VPN service as they are about its security.

This article provides the results of our informal survey. TechRepublic had 615 respondents to the poll. Thirty-nine of those said they didn’t offer VPN work, and 58 said their clients weren’t using VPNs. Those responses weren’t considered when determining the following results.

Are consultants being asked to provide VPN services?
Of the respondents who offered VPN services, 30 percent said they are often asked to set up VPNs for their clients. Twenty percent said the request was rare, and 5 percent claimed they’d never been asked (see Figure A).

Figure A

How are most clients using VPNs?
Most members, 67 percent, said their clients most commonly use VPNs to connect remote employees. That figure is well above the number who reported their use as an intranet or extranet (see Figure B).

Figure B

Why are your clients using VPNs?
Members reported that their clients are turning to VPNs to offer flexibility, perhaps when adding new sites to their network or in offering telecommuting opportunities to employees. Additionally, respondents said their clients use VPNs to avoid paying for high-speed private-line services and long-distance dial-up remote access to their headquarters (see Figure C).

Figure C

What access control method do you most often recommend?
It’s vital to ensure that only authorized employees have access to a VPN connection. A majority of members said they recommend the user name and password method of access control. Digital certificates and Remote Authentication Dial-In User Server/Service (RADIUS) came in a distant second and third, respectively (see Figure D).

Figure D

What do you recommend for remote-access deployment?
For remote-access VPN deployment, 43 percent of respondents said they most often recommend a router and firewall platform. Firewall came in at 23 percent, with software getting 16 percent of the responses (see Figure E).

Figure E

What are your clients’ greatest fears about their VPN?
When it comes to VPN worries, members said their clients were nearly equally concerned about the performance or quality of their VPN service as they were about its security. Coming in at a distant third was concern about integrating a VPN with existing architecture. Few said their clients were worried about managing the VPN, training users, or discovering hidden costs of maintaining the network (see Figure F).

Figure F