Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) vs VPN: the core evolution

March 09, 2022

According to Gartner, by 2023, 60% of enterprises will phase out their VPN in favor of Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). In this blog, discover the four key advantages of ZTNA vs VPN.

VPN (Virtual Private Network) has been the dominant solution securing remote access for users and has been considered a good solution for almost three decades. VPN benefits included keeping data secure, protecting online privacy, and reducing bandwidth throttling.

However, VPN wasn’t built for today’s cloud-first, ‘on-demand’ approach to IT and as a result, weaknesses have been increasingly exposed.

So what path should you now walk to ensure low-risk, secure, remote access solutions in an ever-growing cloud-based, Work From Anywhere environment?

Enter Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA).

What is ZTNA?

ZTNA is part of a wider network security architecture based on a strict identity verification process over the lifetime of the user’s connection, with every user and device equally untrusted.

As such, ZTNA principles dictate that only authenticated and authorized users, IP addresses, and devices can access applications and data on the corporate network (including on-prem and cloud services).

Delivering ‘policy at the point of need’, ZTNA, therefore, ensures users only have access to the applications and services they need to do their jobs based on how and where they’re accessing the network. The solution then continuously monitors user behavior and traffic flows to protect the network.

Zero Trust Network Access vs VPN

There are four main advantages of a ZTNA approach over VPNs:

1 – Improved user experience

Firstly, part of the reason businesses adopt a cloud-first strategy is to ensure user experience meets the expectations of modern users: always on, always performing, and convenient.

However, VPNs tend to be inconvenient and require users to log in every time they change location. This can cause frustration and can result in users looking for a workaround. For example, some users may save sensitive data locally on their devices, creating a security risk and the lost opportunity for collaborative working. 

2 – Enhanced security

A core issue with VPN is its ‘castle-and-moat’ security model which creates a relatively secure perimeter on the outside but leaves the interior vulnerable to anyone within the ‘castle’ – including users and more worryingly threat actors. This, therefore, places an element of trust in users and their devices, making it difficult to minimize security risk.

ZTNA creates a secure, isolated environment around each private application and provides least-privilege access only to specific authorized users. Put simply, unlike traditional VPN solutions, ZTNA offers the access that users need when they need it, but nothing more.

3 – Decoupling application access from network access

VPNs connect users to the network; ZTNA connects users to applications. Decoupling application and network access removes users from the network. And so, the internet can become the new secure network that keeps apps private via encrypted tunnels.

What’s more, since it uses a micro-segmentation strategy instead of network segmentation, ZTNA creates a secure segment between an authorized user and a named application. This eliminates the overhead needed to manage network segments.

4 – Greater visibility and control

With a VPN, information accessible to I&O teams is limited to a device’s port data, IP address, and protocols. This means I&O teams can see who has logged in and via which IP address. However, they won’t have visibility into what the user was doing while on the network.

A ZTNA solution provides comprehensive information about all activity between users and apps. It captures data in real-time around the user identity, named application, latency, locations, and more.

A better way forward with Teneo

While it’s fair to say that VPN solutions still ‘work’, when considering ZTNA vs. VPN, it’s clear that the ZTNA approach offers a far superior service.

That’s where Teneo can help.

Teneo’s WFA: Zero Trust Network Access service will ensure your Zero Trust Network Access solution is deployed and consistently managed to best practice throughout its lifecycle. And crucially, without the need for additional internal resources or ongoing training.

Find out more about Teneo’s WFA: ZTNA solution

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