At-Home Workers Depend on Your VPN Services. Are They Reliable?

How to make sure your remote workforce remains productive and secure

At-Home Workers Depend on Your VPN Services. Are They Reliable?

The world as we know it has been turned upside down. COVID-19 has elevated front-line workers such as doctors, nurses, delivery drivers, grocery store clerks, and restaurant employees into bigger heroes than they already were. As for the rest of us, we’re just trying to work from home as best we can, while making sure our loved ones are as safe and secure as possible.

IT professionals, meanwhile, are tasked with the responsibility of maintaining business continuity and ensuring employees have access to the services and applications they need to do their jobs. “For most companies, the vast majority of your employees are working from home, and this is clearly placing a huge amount of emphasis and stress on VPN connections,” explained NETSCOUT Enterprise CTO Paul Barrett in a recent webinar focused on virtual private network (VPN) service performance. “Many, if not most, IT pros are starting to ask themselves questions such as, ‘Is my network robust enough to support all of my employees working from home, and can I provide enough VPN capacity to make it all work?’” After all, there’s a lot riding on this: Key applications and services must remain accessible and secure, while a remote workforce relies more than ever on voice and collaboration services. At the same time, enterprise help desk and contact center personnel must learn how to support this new reality.

Is My VPN Up to the Task?

Ensuring the performance of VPN services boils down to improving the location of instrumentation to achieve better visibility into the network and all services and dependencies. Barrett identified three key placement areas, and talked about the visibility IT can get at each location.

  1. Visibility outside of the VPN concentrators. The encrypted traffic coming into VPNs is a really valuable location when it comes to seeing ingress and egress of traffic to the outside world. “One of the simplest but most important things I can do is look at the usage patterns over time and see if those links are saturated,” Barrett said. This lets IT plan for capacity surges during busy periods. This is location also lets IT detect the presence of inbound traffic problems such as packet loss. ”If the packets are already degraded as they enter my network, it’s a sign of outside issues—for example, perhaps my employee’s ISP is struggling.”
  2. Business application visibility. Accessing applications on the enterprise network is crucial, and visibility in this area allows IT to identify problems with external network traffic as well as look for internal application problems. “With business services, we need to understand the usage patterns to assess whether they’re responsive, and to see if they’re generating errors,” Barrett said. Visibility here can help monitor application health and usage patterns, VDI service performance, media quality, and troubleshoot remote user issues. “Today, the importance of these services has really risen as we are all working from home,” he said. “For example, VDI is even more important in the current environment, as are media, audio, and video quality—all of which are particularly affected by degraded network links.”
  3. Visibility inside the VPN concentrator. A location that sometimes gets overlooked is the traffic coming out of the VPN concentrator, but Barrett says this kind of visibility gives IT a chance to better balance how users attach to the network. “A user’s closest VPN concentrator may not always be the most appropriate depending on what services being accessed,” he pointed out. It also helps identify and cut down on inappropriate use of a business network. Accessing YouTube while on VPN, for example, is an unnecessary bandwidth hog. Finally, IT can detect traffic that’s been degraded due to the VPN concentrator itself being overloaded. “This kind of visibility really does arm you in taking these kinds of remedial actions.”

Barrett concluded that gaining visibility in these areas is key to making better decisions regarding remediation, adding bandwidth, and ensuring the performance and security necessary for a remote workforce that is more dependent on your company’s VPN services than ever.

Watch the webinar


Where Visibility Helps

Use visibility outside VPN concentrators to:

  • Analyze usage patterns over time by concentrator
  • Identify link saturation during busy periods
  • Detect presence of inbound traffic problems such as packet loss

Visibility into business applications helps:

  • Measure health and usage of business applications
  • Monitor health of VDI services
  • Evaluate media quality as it enter/leaves enterprise
  • Isolate problems with links to/from remote users

Visibility inside the VPN concentrator helps IT:

  • Analyze use of business services by user group
  • Reassign user groups or VIP/power users according to usage
  • Identify inappropriate use of business network over VPN
  • Detect traffic degraded due to concentrator resource starvation