The growth of broadband networks, as well as the emergence of Wi-Fi access in Europe, means that remote-access technologies are currently one of the hottest topics in IT.
But externalising an organisation's network over public networks carries risks, and therefore security is of paramount concern.
To combat this, several organisations are turning to Secure Sockets Layer virtual private networks. SSL-based remote-access solutions offer users secure access to applications via a web browser, and because they require no client-side software, they are ideal for users who want to access information through internet cafes, home PCs, customer sites or Wi-Fi zones.
By using an SSL VPN, employees can see the same corporate applications and information they can in the office, but the applications can be configured never to leave the corporate firewall. Instead, applications are published out, meaning the information is never actually stored on a home computer or a PC with public access.
Another way of ensuring the security of corporate data is for the organisation to have complete control over where the data is accessed from. With anywhere, anytime access it is no longer adequate to simply identify the user. The user's location and whether they are accessing corporate information via a trusted (private) or untrusted (public) device must also be determined.
An advanced SSL VPN can provide the technology to ensure that companies have complete control over which applications are accessible from which location.
The evolution of SSL VPNs will allow more companies to take advantage of the internet and use it as a ready-made corporate infrastructure. The whole world is now your office.
Simon Johnson is co-founder and vice-president of technology at security supplier Aspelle
This was first published in April 2003