VPN vs. Cloud: It’s a question of control

You know a bit about VPN. You know a bit about Cloud. But you’re still trying to understand the key debate between the choice of one over the other. Never fear! #DevTO’s Nael El Shawwa has come to your rescue:

There is a big debate in the mobile storage world between Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Cloud services – and it revolves mainly around the issue of control.

A tool commonly provided by – but not exclusive to – larger corporations for their mobile employees, VPNs offer a secure access tunnel to an organization’s infrastructure, servers and data. Some people/organizations want, prefer or need that.

At the same time, that control can often be seen as a disadvantage: You have to keep your servers up to date and patched up; and the VPN’s owner administrators are responsible for dealing with security threats, viruses or other issues as they arise.

There are legal compliances that need be taken into account when considering a VPN. For example, where is data stored? An organization may be legally and/or legislatively restricted to where data must be stored. For example, certain Canadian public organizations must store their data on networks within Canada, where the government has jurisdiction. A VPN located in Canada would comply with this.

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As for cloud storage and networks, one of the biggest and most obvious advantages is ease of setup. Just a few clicks on Amazon or any other cloud service will give you server access somewhere in the world and off you go. Before this, it may have taken you anywhere from a week to a month to adequately set up, and then you’d have to personally maintain, monitor, etc.

Cost is another factor for cloud. Typically, it starts out cheaper to use – but as your needs increase, there’s a point where the cost balance tips; with growth, eventually it becomes cheaper to build and deploy your own servers.

I still think the cloud is – for the most part – more reliable, more secure and more convenient. Issues like the recent Amazon power outages and periodic downtimes could also happen to the private data centre from which you’re hosting a network.

The real question remains whether or not a VPN is more secure. As any corporate network administrator will tell you, if an employee with network access is truly disgruntled havoc can still be wrought. Security is never 100% airtight.

As the saying goes: “Build a 12ft wall and someone will eventually build a 13ft ladder”. With VPN you need to always make sure your wall is higher than any other ladder out there. A cloud solution like Amazon or Google or others takes the wall building out of your hands so you can focus on what is more important – building your product, service or business and keeping your customers happy.

#DevTo is Toronto’s developer community for all of Toronto’s developers; a place for all to collaborate on the problems faced while developing applications. You may not be a developer, but even if you have written a bit of HTML you should come out. www.devto.ca (@devto)

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