skip to main content
  • Business Intelligence
  • Growth
  • Customers
  • Productivity
  • Business IQ
  • Trends
  • Success Stories
  • Tech
  • Awards
  • Business Tools
  • Subscribe
  • Tech Enquiry
  • Smarter Writer
    Smarter Team

    A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

    Smarter Writer
    Smarter Team

    A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

    If regular news of high-profile cyber-attacks across the world teaches us anything, it’s that every business, regardless of size, needs to take its security more seriously.

    The good news is that it’s never been easier to secure your sensitive business information from prying eyes with a virtual private network (VPN). Here’s what you need to know.

    What is a VPN?

    A VPN is a powerful and versatile tool that can make it nearly impossible for someone to snoop on your network or track you as you browse the web. How does a VPN work? Put simply, a VPN creates an encrypted connection between your device and a server operated by the VPN provider, which accesses the internet on your behalf. This effectively creates a secure tunnel for your online activities to pass through. As well as creating this safe tunnel, a VPN also masks your computer’s IP address making it harder for outsiders, including advertisers and your internet service provider (ISP), to track you online.

    This is especially useful when you’re accessing public Wi-Fi networks, such as the ones at coffee shops, airports, hotels or onboard airplanes via in-flight Wi-Fi. Since performing online activities such as banking, shopping or email on public Wi-Fi networks makes you especially vulnerable to identity and data theft, a VPN can mitigate these risks by preventing other users on the same Wi-Fi hotspot from intercepting your web traffic.

    Looking for expert advice about online tools that secure and protect your business?

    Telstra Business Cyber Security Services can help keep you safe online.

    Find out moreLooking for expert advice about online tools that secure and protect your business?

    A VPN can also securely connect you to your company’s network, even when you’re outside the office. So it’s an invaluable tool for working remotely, as you can access the company intranet or email from anywhere with a reliable internet connection, without any additional security risks.

    What to look for in a VPN

    But what should you look for? Firstly, don’t evaluate a VPN solely on price. While most VPN services require payment, there are a few, such as TunnelBear, recommended by PC Mag for first-time users, that offer free versions of their VPN services. But as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for: a free VPN will likely have limitations, such as the number of simultaneous connections, speed, server locations and, sometimes, even the data usage. In saying this, a free VPN might be enough if your needs are fairly basic - so consider your business's demands before making a choice between free and paid. 

    To get started, choose a VPN that’s user-friendly. Top VPN providers such as Private Internet Access VPN, NordVPN, and the previously mentioned TunnelBear, for instance, require next to no set-up – simply download the app onto your computer or mobile device, log in, select the location of the VPN server you’d like to connect to and you’re ready to go. Other providers ask you to jump through a few more hoops and manually configure your network settings.

    A good rule of thumb for selecting VPN server locations is that, unless you’re looking to access a service not normally available in Australia, you’re almost always going to want to choose the VPN server closest to you.

    Other important things to look at are reputation, performance, privacy policy, support and extra features – all of which tend to vary wildly between providers. Extra features might include, for example, ad-blocking and the number of devices that can connect at a time.

    Pay particular attention to the privacy practices of whichever service you choose. Some VPN providers keep temporary logs of the time and date users connect to their VPN in addition to storing their original IP address, while others like Private Internet Access VPN do not keep logs of any form of customer data or user activity.

    Get safe and get a VPN

    There are a lot of situations where you will want to keep your VPN connection active, such as whenever you connect to a public Wi-Fi network or an untrusted network that you don’t own or manage. It’s also prudent to use a VPN when handling sensitive business data, which might include sharing sensitive information with colleagues or clients remotely via email or a VOIP service like Skype. Or it could be that you’re doing market research on a competitor and you don’t want to alert your rival that you have visited their website. And, of course, a VPN is essential if you plan on accessing resources on your business' network while you’re away from the office.

    In an age of sophisticated cybercrime, heightened government surveillance and industrial espionage, a VPN is a fundamental tool that everyone should have at their disposal. 

    *Originally published March 6th 2017. Updated November 8th 2019.

    Looking for security assessments, threat updates and 24/7 support?

    Telstra Business Cyber Security Services will help keep your business safe.

    Find out moreLooking for security assessments, threat updates and 24/7 support?

    Tech
    Tech
    Tips from former con-artist Frank Abagnale on how to fix your cyber security

    It’s a question that plagues the technological age: how can small businesses protect themselves from internet fraud? Former conman turned cyber expert Frank Abagnale reveals ho...

    Customer Experience
    Customer Experience
    Digital tools that will help you create loyal customers

    Creating loyal customers is essential to the success of any business. Digital tools can improve the way customers experience your brand - whether it’s helping you interact with...

    Tech
    Tech
    BYOD security in the age of remote work

    The rise of remote working has thrown a spotlight on bring your own device (BYOD) security issues and challenges. BYOD is more popular now than ever – but with more devices in...

    Business IQ
    Business IQ
    The year ahead: 5 key opportunities for small businesses

    In the second article from Telstra’s partnership series with Small Business Australia, Executive Director Bill Lang shares his take on the key opportunities for small businesse...