Manage Remote Access to Network Resources Without a VPN

Written by Zach DeMeyer on May 26, 2020

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As remote work becomes the status quo, IT organizations that rely on on-premises infrastructure need to find ways to ensure that their end users have secure access to required resources — no matter if they find themselves at home, in a coffee shop, or even on an airplane. The virtual private network (VPN) has long served as the bridge between remote workers and on-prem resources, but in modern IT, VPNs may not be as effective as other methods. That’s why IT organizations are interested in how to manage remote access without a VPN.

Why VPN?

VPNs are used to create encrypted tunnels between a system and remote resources with three main use cases:

  • Remotely accessing cloud-hosted infrastructure or on-premises resources
  • Remotely managing user access
  • Encrypting access to the internet on public networks

In all cases, the VPN requires a unique set of credentials from the user upon login.

In this particular blog, we’ll discuss admins using a VPN to remotely adjust user resource access. For many organizations leveraging an on-prem identity provider, a VPN connection to the on-prem network allows the directory service to push changes made by admins to remote workers and allows those remote workers to access IT resources hosted behind the VPN.

Drawbacks of VPN Access Management

Although necessary, using VPNs to remotely manage user identities is cumbersome and can lead to security issues. In general, VPNs need to be properly configured in order to operate, and also require a bit of understanding from the end user to authenticate securely.

When setting up the VPN, admins need to be sure that they’re integrating user VPN identities with the same core identity stored in their identity provider. VPNs using shared identities can be susceptible to compromise if admins and end users aren’t careful with how they share VPN credentials.

Additionally, VPNs can be attacked using brute force, bot-based attacks, repeatedly entering credential combinations until a breach occurs. Unless it’s backed by multi-factor authentication (MFA), an organization’s VPN could be compromised by such an attack.

Beyond security, organizations also need to ensure that their VPN has the availability to support their workforce, especially if all of their users are working remotely, so end users need to be trained on proper VPN usage to avoid problems. For example, VPNs are limited by the bandwidth they’re allotted and the compute power it takes to encrypt and decrypt traffic, so high traffic activities like streaming and downloading affect everyone involved.

IT organizations may find that all of the drawbacks of a VPN make them too difficult to roll out across a fully remote workforce, and may seek out an option to help them maintain secure resource access.

Managing Remote Access Without a VPN

Using a protocol-driven cloud directory service, IT organizations can connect users to the resources they need without needing a VPN to protect or manage access. With SAML, LDAP, RADIUS, OAuth, and more, IT organizations can pass credentials to services directly from their core identity provider in an encrypted handshake. That way, remote access to applications, both on-prem and cloud, file servers, networks, applications, and email services are all secured, leveraging one identity as the sole source of truth.

Learn More

You can try a cloud directory service today to see how your organization might benefit from forgoing a VPN to manage remote resource access. Your first 10 users are always free, so kick the tires for as long as you’d like before scaling to meet your needs.

If you want to learn more about remote worker best practices and how a cloud directory service supports them, check out our remote work solutions page.

Zach DeMeyer

Zach is a Product Marketing Specialist at JumpCloud with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. He loves being on the cutting edge of new technology, and when he's not working, he enjoys all things outdoors, music, and soccer.

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