The best mobile VPNs for the enterprise and how to evaluate them

Do cloud-based mobile VPNs work for the enterprise? Many businesses are saying "yes," but you need to choose a moble VPN and how you use it carefully.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are a necessary protection in an inherently insecure internet world. Enterprise-class VPNs have been around forever and there are a multitude of vendors to choose among. Most require a dedicated centralized device (e.g., an appliance, gateway, firewall, concentrator or server) to which all participating VPN users connect.

Now a growing new class of VPN vendors, especially in the small business and mobile space, uses the power of the cloud to scale their decentralized offerings. Some are even completely free. Could one of these new offerings be a part of your mobile VPN strategy? Depending on your requirements, the answer may be yes.

How does a mobile VPN work?

A mobile VPN allows devices such as notebook computers, smartphones or tablets used by employees to provide encrypted, authenticated tunneled access to a corporate network from any location. Both types of VPN require a device such as a server that users can connect to, although with a mobile VPN that server may be part of a cloud service.

Traditional VPNs rely on the IP address of the user to remain stable. Mobile VPNs can adapt to changing IP addresses as users move around and connect through, say, a hotel LAN or wifi hotspot. This is because mobile VPNs are bound to logical IP addresses whereas traditional VPNs require a stationary address. The logical IP address is tied to the device.

According to a 2017 paper by P&S Market Research, the global mobile VPN market is expected to grow 21 percent per year to be a $2.4 billion market by 2022. Seven of today’s leading mobile enterprise VPN vendors (Cisco, Columbiatech, IBM, Netmotion, Radio IP, Smith Micro and Techstep) will be challenged like never before by new and innovating competitors.

The new players aren’t likely to completely replace enterprise-class mobile VPN vendors in most companies for a variety of reasons, including the following enterprise-class VPN features:

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