The technological landscape has never been more progressive. Smartphones, artificial intelligence, drones, and voice assistants, among other established and emerging technologies, have taken the world by storm. What were once confined in the realm of science fiction are now seamlessly integrated into our every day.
Adopting technology especially sped up due to the global pandemic. Established routines changed dramatically, and people from around the world had to navigate through uncertain times.
For business owners, it meant scrapping most, if not all, plans set for the year. With the world on lockdown, business operations took on a different shape. Businesses had to get creative with logistics and work-from-home arrangements took over.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, approximately 4.3 million employees are working remotely in adherence to social distancing protocols. This new setup is an adjustment for companies and staff alike.
With more employees working outside the office, the risk of cyberattacks has increased. Official company workspaces offer better safeguards against security threats such as secured private connections, designated devices, and close monitoring.
Remote work invites cyber snooping and unauthorized access because employees can connect to public WiFi networks and use company tools on personal, unvetted devices. Such practices put sensitive data at risk, which is where VPNs come in.
What is a VPN?
VPN or virtual private network is a means of protecting your privacy online. It works by creating a private network from a public connection, thereby granting anonymity and secure browsing.
VPNs hide your internal protocol (IP) address so that your browsing history is virtually untraceable. They can be set up on desktops, smartphones, and tablets.
For eCommerce businesses, VPNs are important to protect data in transit. For example, if your company is entering a partnership with an organization, you want to make sure hackers can’t tamper or expose confidential information.
Instead of connecting directly with a server, VPNs serve as the middle-man and connect for you. Upon rerouting your request, VPNs encrypt data so that a server identifies it as the origin of traffic and not your IP address.
Encryption happens even before data is sent to your internet service provider, ensuring that attackers or malware are less likely to get a hold of your information.
How to choose a VPN service provider
VPN servers handle sensitive data, so choosing a service provider is one of the most crucial decisions concerning your e-commerce business. The selection is vast — over 300 service providers — so it’s good to have a rubric to base your decision on.
In general, there are five important factors to consider when choosing a VPN service provider:
Security is the primary reason to obtain a VPN and is measured mainly by the level of encryption. Of course, the stronger the encryption, the better. The standard is 256-bit encryption.
For added protection, some VPN servers have data pass through several servers from multiple locations. This is a good indication that a VPN service provider offers top-notch security.
Uptime refers to the duration in which a device or software is operating. In other words, it involves how long a system performs without interruptions. For business use, VPN servers must have good uptime to guarantee the safe exchange of data 24/7.
Look for a host that is proven to have reliable uptime and is proactive in finding solutions to prevent system crashes.
One of the ways to spot mediocre VPN service providers is by reviewing the speed of their service. You want a VPN that encrypts and executes commands instantly, but it shouldn’t stop there.
The best service providers tailor their VPNs to how they’re going to be used which allows them to match the demand for speed perfectly.
Choose a VPN service provider that offers various configurations depending on the intended use. This way, you’re guaranteed the level of speed appropriate for running a business.
The key to any good business is making sure technology works with employees to smoothen the rough edges of business processes. Meaning, employees shouldn’t have to go through a lengthy process of logging into systems to get a job done.
This concerns VPNs because there are moments when employees don’t have access to their laptops and need to accomplish tasks immediately. That is why you should go for VPN service providers that offer versatility.
Specifically, look for a VPN service provider that supports connection to multiple devices. It would be even better if it supports simultaneous connection to a desktop, smartphone, and tablet without consequences on speed.
Lastly, consider your budget. While availing of additional features comes with a larger price tag, it doesn’t mean you should skimp on security measures. There are VPN service providers that offer affordable plans that include fundamental features of a VPN.
If you’re running a startup or a small business, look into cheaper deals — hopefully without compromising on encryption — and scale up as your business grows. At the end of the day, having a VPN is a good investment, but the expense has to be proportionate to your profit margin.
8 reasons why you should use a VPN for your e-commerce business
At a glance, it’s already obvious how advantageous VPNs are to businesses. If you’re not yet convinced, let us flesh out the top 8 benefits you’ll reap from integrating a VPN into your operations.
1. Data Protection
Data protection can never be emphasized enough, especially in this day and age. Technological advancements have not only armed business owners with the best tools but also hackers.
With a VPN, heighten security measures so that even when hackers extract your data, it would be of no value because of encryption. They also won’t be able to trace IP addresses so they can’t perform cyber attacks.
2. Secure File Sharing
A common practice today is file sharing via the cloud, email, messaging apps, or workplace tools. This, without a doubt, is a convenient way to coordinate business efforts and procedures. The caveat is, that it poses a great threat without the proper security measures.
VPNs work so that only authorized personnel have access to company files and sensitive information. Additionally, it does so without hassling employees with an added layer of work to secure the files they want to send or upload.
3. Secure Financial Transactions
Similar to sharing files securely, a VPN also works wonders for online financial transactions. With an e-commerce business, it’s normal to have bank accounts or e-wallets posted on your website. Unfortunately, it attracts cyber attackers knowing you’ll probably be making online payments or transfers with those very accounts.
Ideally, online transactions should be protected with 256-bit encryption in addition to other protocols. This guarantees that every transaction is done anonymously and cannot be traced back to the source.
4. Remote Access
When employees are not physically in the office, it’s harder to standardize security protocols. Remote workers are more likely to use their devices and connect to public hotspots while accessing company information.
VPNs make sure that no matter what connection employees are using to view private resources and data, they do so with a secure connection. The result is improved productivity and safety for all parties.
Even before the pandemic, outsourcing tasks were pretty much mainstream for many industries. Aside from securing remote access, a VPN is a way of avoiding situations wherein company resources are inaccessible because of network restrictions in a specific area.
For example, in countries with strict internet access laws, your employees will have difficulty reaching certain websites. With a VPN, you bypass these restrictions so everyone has a hold of necessary content anytime, anywhere.
6. Anonymous Research
Every e-commerce business owner knows that there is no escaping digital marketing. To market your e-commerce store effectively, you need to conduct competitor analysis to see what you’re up against and think of ways you can top it.
When you’re constantly hopping from one domain to the next, you leave a digital footprint. The data those websites collect may be sold to your competitors, resulting in potential backfires from your market research.
Using a VPN no longer becomes a problem because it guarantees anonymity through data encryption and masking your IP address.
7. Content Testing
A less familiar advantage that VPNs offer is it allows you to test how your website performs in other countries.
Say you built a website in the US and you want to know how content appears in far-off countries in Asia. You can use a VPN to test web apps and online content by having it change your location. This simple trick helps you improve your website tremendously for users from anywhere on the globe.
We’ll say it again — VPNs are a good investment. Once you’re set-up, there’s little to do for maintenance, and it saves you the costs of troubleshooting damages by cyberattacks.
The booming industry of online businesses is an inevitable event following the rise of the internet and smart devices. But alongside this is the growing need for heightened online security. VPNs in the world of e-commerce are not only beneficial, they are vital. Better to invest now than to run into problems later.