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Wide Area Network: How to Improve Your Security

By: Barry Utesch

Wide Area Network

You may have heard of these terms, but are unsure what WAN and VPN mean. Wide area networking (WAN) is technology that companies use when they need to connect locations that are geographically separated. Typically, the purpose of this connection is to share data or voice traffic between locations. The separation between sites could be a short distance across a busy road or railroad tracks or it could be in another country. The two main requirements are; 1-the inability to lay a fiber or ethernet connection between the locations and 2- available high-speed internet access. This same technology can also be used to allow an individual user with internet access to connect back to the corporate network and do so securely. 

FREE Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Network Security

Ransomware & Security

With the increase of Ransomware that we are all seeing, securing your network has never been more important and WAN is a critical piece of that security. There are two primary ways to set up a WAN. The most secure option is to use a “dedicated circuit” or “leased line." Your Telco and ISP handle this solution, and typically they manage the circuit between the locations. This can be your best option because when you have a problem, you only need to make one phone call.  This connection is up or on all the time and it tends to be the “cleanest."  When I say clean what I’m talking about is the experience we have all had on a cell phone conversation where one of the parties was in an area with poor signal. Words get clipped or they do not come smoothly and this tells you that the connection is experiencing delays and the (QOS) Quality of Service is poor or the connection is not “clean." Dedicated circuits are usually more expensive but if QOS and consistent reliability are important, then this is probably your best option. 

Read Everything You Need to Know About Network Security for Your Small Business

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

The next option would be a VPN or Virtual Private Network. A strong VPN is usually created between two or more firewalls. When setting up a VPN, a connection is made across the public Internet and so it is Virtually Private rather than truly private like a dedicated circuit. The firewalls are setup to only talk to one another and this is confirmed through a “code." When the firewalls pass traffic back and forth, they encrypt the traffic so that no one else can read it. This creates a virtual tunnel between the locations and like the dedicated circuit mentioned above this connection is on or up all the time. The VPN is done over the public Internet, you normally have a larger amount of bandwidth between the sites. For example, a dedicated connection might be 50MB where a VPN over the Internet could be 200MB or even as much as 1GB. A VPN is using the public Internet, the Quality Of Service is usually lower but the increased bandwidth may make up for the lower QOS depending on your purpose for the connection.

Remote Users

Sometimes you need to connect a remote user to your network and we would suggest using an SSL-VPN. The advantage of this option is that you gain access to the VPN through your web browser. When an SSL-VPN is setup you assign a URL, for example,  and then the remote user connects through their browser to that URL. The SSL-VPN software is automatically installed onto the machine making the connection and they login using the same username and password that they use when sitting in the office.

TCS can help. Total Computer Solutions has been serving Central NC for over 28 years, assisting our clients to connect to their network securely. If you have questions about how to secure your network, we would be happy to discuss those with you. Contact us at 336.804.8449 or fill out a form to be contacted by one of our representatives. 

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