Hacking stories are all over the internet.
ZDNet presents some of the biggest 2015 security hacks in a slideshow presentation, including the Experian breach that exposed the private information of 15 million T-Mobile subscribers, the Ashley Madison hacking that publicized the confidential data of 37 million people registered with the site, and the VTech breach that allowed hackers unauthorized access to a database of more than 200,000 kids.
But if you dig a little more, you’ll find that these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Besides unawareness of the existence of better tools and processes, data confidentiality is one of the most compelling reasons why some people, if they could help it, would choose to go traditional when it comes to business communication.
By traditional, we mean exchange of information via face-to-face discussions, phone calls, passing memos around, and so on.
But we all know that traditional communication methods present multiple challenges – speed of dissemination being the most notable of them all. For organizations intending to thrive and remain relevant in an ever-changing business landscape, agility on various fronts, including communication, is paramount.
Add to that the growing need for data security in both the back and front ends, and you make a compelling case for virtual private networks (VPNs).
VPNs and customer service
Virtual private networks
First off, what is a VPN?
Raymond Blockmon, a study.com instructor, defines a VPN as “a network that is completely isolated from the rest of the internet.”
A NETGEAR Support knowledge base entry adds that a VPN “gives extremely secure connections between private networks linked through the internet. It allows remote computers to act as though they were on the same secure, local network.”
VPNs employ various security measures, such as encryption and two-step authentication, to make a network virtually private, keeping data and communication safe from malicious hacking.
- Banks use VPNs so users can securely share bank statements or loan applications among the different branches, between branches and headquarters.
- If you’re doing competitor research and you don’t want them alerted of your activities on their site, a VPN can mask your digital activities.
- A remote access VPN allows individual users to safely access confidential files from a remote computer, such as when you need a file from your home computer in Florida while you’re in Nevada.
There was a time when customer service only meant face-to-face interaction between businesses and consumers. Today, technology is very much instrumental in delivering goods and services to end users.
However, keep in mind that when customers entrust their private information to you, they expect you to take good care of it. Doing otherwise poses great risks, both for your company and your customers.
This being the case, below are three solid reasons why companies must consider the use of VPNs:
Data security is a foremost concern for both businesses and customers. No matter how inviting a product or service is, if the way to get to it would mean compromising one’s privacy, customers would gladly look away and find another. Consumers are deluged with a variety of options every day, every minute, every second. Why will they carelessly endanger their privacy if it can be prevented?
According to researcher Gavin Phillips:
“A secure VPN connection essentially hides your web activity, cloaking your digital affairs in an encryption layer, making your communications extremely difficult, if not impossible to read if intercepted.”
When customers transact with your company, they automatically leave their data into your company’s hands for safekeeping. Using VPN software to secure the communication lines between head offices and branches, across distributed business locations, between telecommuters/mobile workers and a central communication line keeps their data protected and away from prying eyes.
What makes the use of any technology safe is compliance with standard regulations. Compliance has a very positive ring to it. It suggests the willingness to reach a standard that is beyond reproach.
One such compliance standard for VPN security is Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX). According to a TechTarget article by Robbie Harrell, SBC Communications’ National Practice Lead for Advanced Infrastructure Solutions, “SOX has created the need to push security measures far out into the end-user environment and to focus on a holistic security approach.”
Meaning, prior to its introduction, security was focused on data and asset protection through encryption, authentication, and intrusion detection. And while VPN technology is already known to be secure, SOX pushed the envelope by requiring organizations to deliver end-to-end VPN security.
A service level agreement or SLA is essentially a contract that defines expectations in terms of the level of service a provider gives and the customer receives.
There are several advantages to VPNs, including:
- Secure file sharing
- Online anonymity
- Centralization of IT resources
- Business continuity and faster response times even for after-office requests, or when disasters strike
- Remote control
- Reduced costs
- External portals for certain partners for increased efficiency
- Generally increased network efficiency and bandwidth
In other words, if you’re a business dealing with confidential client information, installing a VPN can greatly improve your service performance.
However, not all VPNs are created equal. There are various protocols associated with the technology: site-to-site, SSL, PPTP, L2TP, IPsec, MPLS, and hybrid. Your VPN choice should largely depend on your needs, such as bandwidth, the number of users, and cost.
And because there are numerous options on the market to choose from, I highly recommend reading VPN reviews to help you find a reliable service provider.
Technology-assisted customer service
When businesses fail to present themselves as reliable, competent, and secure, no amount of advertising and marketing will ever suffice. Customers are getting more and more technologically savvy by the minute, and the customer service landscape, as a result, has evolved to become a technologically-assisted endeavor.
And with data security emerging as a primary consideration for customers in choosing the companies they deal with, VPNs are likewise emerging as no-brainers when dealing with sensitive data.