Let me ask you — how many of your IT Solution Provider or Managed Service Provider (MSP) clients now work remotely from their office?
If I had asked that question two years ago, I might have heard mixed responses.
Today, the answer you would give me is very likely that almost 100% of your clients remotely work away from their office some of or all of the time.
Yet despite this change in the landscape, I do not see a corresponding uptake in MSPs helping their clients work remotely and securely.
I think it is time that more IT Solution Providers used a Managed VPN service for MSPs.
Why Use a VPN?
With free WiFi becoming ubiquitous across hotels, cafes, restaurants, pubs and cafes, people have come to trust that they can work from anywhere, at any time.
I’ve seen friends and family spot a WiFi hotspot called “Free WiFi” and blindly connect to it without any thought of who is providing the hotspot!
Even if you trust the provider (“Why shouldn’t I trust my local cafe?”) the open nature of public WiFi allows criminals to snoop on the data you’re transmitting.
- The network the WiFi is connected to could be full of compromised machines, or worse, the WiFi hotspot itself could be malicious.
- When you use the Internet over any public WiFi, you are leaving yourself exposed.
- The data you transmit over WiFi can be intercepted and used by criminals.
If your response to the above is “I don’t have any data worth stealing!” or “Why would criminals be bothered about me”, then please don’t kid yourself.
As we’ve seen across the broader cybercrime landscape, criminals aren’t worried whether you’re rich or poor, a big enterprise or a small business. In their eyes, you’re just another victim.
We, as MSPs, need to be educating our clients and helping them remain safe, wherever they work.
Can I use 3G or 4G to stay secure?
With the rise in unlimited data plans, one way we can educate clients to stay safe online is to not use public WiFi at all and to use their mobile phones 3G or 4G data connection.
Tethering your laptop or tablet to your Smartphone and using its data is a smart way to stay safe when travelling.
The challenge is that with the rise of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies for employees, many of your clients will have metered mobile data plans. In this case, there will be a strong temptation for people to use free WiFi to cut down on their mobile bills.
Other people will have budget mobile data plans that do not allow the tethering of devices to their smartphones, leaving them reliant on free WiFi to stay connected.
There is also a smaller group of clients (including those in law, finance and compliance) who will be dealing in highly sensitive data. This category of a client is unlikely to trust even the 4G data networks to transport their data.
In all of these situations, I’d recommend you educate your MSP clients to use a VPN solution to encrypt their data across any connection.
Can I use a consumer VPN service rather than a Managed VPN for MSPs?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) ensures that any data sent across the Internet is encrypted so that it can’t be snooped upon or stolen.
Many tech-savvy folks are familiar with VPN thanks to the rise of consumer VPN services.
You could use these consumer VPN services to not only protect your data when you’re working remotely but also fool network providers into believing you’re working in a different location. For instance, if you’re in the USA and want to watch the UK-only BBC iPlayer service, then a VPN could route your data via a UK server. Voila! The latest series of Doctor Who is on tap wherever you are in the world!
However, there are also more severe applications for these consumer VPN services.
If you are living or working in a country which has authorities that actively snoop on data, then you might want to protect yourself. In some countries, the anonymity that comes with a VPN might be life-saving.
I’ve written before about consumer VPN services. My current favourite commercial consumer VPN is ExpressVPN – High-Speed, Secure & Anonymous VPN Service.
If you’re new to the world of VPN and want to protect your personal data, then free services such as ProtonVPN – Protect Your Privacy with a Free VPN or TunnelBear – VPN for Chromebooks both offer free services that can keep you safe.
When you’re looking at consumer VPN services such as ExpressVPN or TunnelBear, you’re typically looking for features such as:-
- They are based offshore. If the service is outside the USA, UK, Western Europe or Australia, then the VPN provider is less likely to kowtow to government jurisdiction.
- A “no logging” approach to the service, so your activity isn’t tracked.
- A low price.
For MSPs who are looking at business-grade VPN services, you typically don’t want these “features” of a consumer-grade VPN.
Let me explain the benefits of business-grade VPN services.
The benefits of business-grade VPN services
If you’re going to start offering your clients a business-grade VPN service, then you will want to do business with a company in your jurisdiction. This company will understand local legislation and regulation and help you and your clients stay compliant.
Transparency is key here. Does the business-grade VPN you’re considering have offices in the UK, US or a similar country? You should be able to find this answer out.
Whereas “no logging” is desirable with consumer VPN products, with business-grade VPN products, you want the opposite!
Look for a business-grade VPN provider who logs session data such as IP address, Operating System, Device Name, and the Start and End timestamps.
That way, your MSP business can ensure that clients are using the VPN solution to stay safe wherever they are.
Finally, whereas consumer VPNs are low-cost or free, when it comes to business, you want to be paying for an excellent quality service. A business-grade VPN provider will take responsibility for providing excellent service, and if they don’t do this, they go out of business!
A Managed VPN for MSPs
It’s also worth being aware that there is a world of difference between business-grade VPN services (most of these services target the corporate enterprise) and a managed VPN service for MSPs.
Most of the corporate services will be single-tenant focused. That means that you’ll have a separate dashboard for each of the clients where you’ve deployed the VPN solution.
A managed VPN service for MSPs will give you a single dashboard where you can manage multiple clients.
An MSP-friendly service will make it simple for you to deploy the VPN software to any endpoint, and safely manage all the end-user credentials.
Most importantly, an MSP-friendly service will make it easy for your clients to use the VPN software.
The adoption of VPN security is reliant on your clients, hitting a button and then knowing they are safe. Anything more complex, and they are likely to skip using it.
How to offer a Managed VPN for MSPs
I’ve already explained why I believe that all MSPs should be providing a Managed VPN service to their clients.
Offering such a service helps keep your clients safe, wherever they are.
It will also lower your cost of support, as your service desk don’t have to deal with cybersecurity problems, and client’s asking you to install and maintain a plethora of fiddly consumer-grade VPN products.
Surprisingly, though, while there are a lot of business-grade VPN products (which, as discussed, are aimed at individual enterprise clients), I struggled to find an MSP-friendly VPN provider.
Thankfully, one does exist!
Privatise VPN – a Managed VPN for MSPs
Privatise VPN is a VPN service built for business but designed to be managed by MSPs.
The Privatise VPN service is exclusively for MSPs! It’s not available for end-users to buy directly.
It’s aimed at protecting your clients when they use public WiFi.
Full disclosure:- Since writing this article, I’ve become an advisor to Appstractor for their Privatise VPN solution. The reason I’ve taken up this role? Privatise is a service that I believe in and have been actively recommending to MSPs.
The deployment of the Privatise VPN software is fast and easy. You can click a customised link in an email, and the software installs automatically on PC, Mac, iOS or Android. There are no usernames and passwords to have to maintain.
It’s simple to run (literally a big button to connect or disconnect the VPN) and runs quietly in the background.
You can easily configure it for trusted networks. For instance, when you’re working from home or the office. Privatise will then turn off the VPN.
Privatise VPN can also turn the VPN on automatically with untrusted networks.
Manage, Control and Audit Your VPNs from a Single Dashboard
Super importantly, Privatise VPN has been designed for MSPs to manage, control and audit from a single dashboard. You can monitor and audit compliance in real-time, and Privatise also integrates with your Professional Services Automation (PSA) and Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) software.
It’s easy, and it just works. Exactly how MSPs like a security product!
We’ve been using Privatise VPN within Team Tubb for the past few months without any problems. I found it’s helped to educate the team on why they need to encrypt their data. It has raised their understanding of cybersecurity.
— Richard Tubb (@tubblog) October 8, 2019
In terms of cost, I can see this Managed VPN for MSPs being used in one of two ways.
- Provide the service as a value-add in your standard Managed Service contract. You can mitigate your investment costs in buying the Privatise VPN service. The service will differentiate your MSP offering has over competitors. You will also lower your cost of support.
- Provide Privatise VPN as an additional and chargeable service to your clients. You can lower your cost of support and increase your profits.
Many MSPs are being overwhelmed with remote working requests during the COVID-19 outbreak. To help, Privatise are giving MSPs 30-days free Privatise VPN for their clients. Click here to check out this offer.
Almost every MSP clients desire to work remotely. Therefore, there is an onus on MSPs to help educate their clients on the dangers of public WiFi.
Using public WiFi without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) product means your data can fall into the wrong hands.
Consumer VPN products are great for individuals. However, the levels of protection they offer do not meet the needs of businesses.
There are several business-grade VPN products, but they work for single businesses. An MSP needs to be able to manage multiple clients from a single dashboard.
Privatise VPN is an MSP-friendly product that is easy to deploy, manage and use.
Now, more than ever, I’d encourage every MSP to start exploring offering a Managed VPN service to their clients.
A Managed VPN service will help you lower your cost of support, and to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
How do you keep your remote worker clients safe? Which services do you offer to your MSP clients? Leave a comment below or get in touch.