A VPN’s Crucial Role in Securing the Hub

  • A perimeter-to-hub technology infrastructure permits real-time analysis of data to support business decisions.

  • VPN plays an important role in securing this enterprise insight from attack.

As organizations leverage ways to connect the enterprise with wide-ranging internal and external sources of key business data, a VPN is seen as a necessary security component–the armed guard protecting this trove of enterprise insight.

Companies are just beginning to create the technology infrastructure that permits real-time access and analysis of wide-ranging performance data to enable more insightful business decisions. One scenario calls for employees at the edges of the enterprise—individuals “touching” customers, suppliers, banks, and other partners—to be given mobile devices with specific data analytics capabilities. The employees would access data relevant to their roles, assess the importance of this information using analytics systems, and then report it in real time to relevant decision makers.


Armed with this constant flow of information, decision makers can discern whether performance is aligned with strategy, which in turn guides more informed determinations around resource allocation and risk mitigation.

“There is a major transformation of the technology infrastructure underway within several major multinationals and a few startups,” says Andrew Borg, founder and principal of E3C Consulting in Boston. “Employees at the edges of the company are communicating to machines in similar fashion to the machine-to-machine interactions involved in smart manufacturing. It’s the Internet of Things—involving employees.”

image of network locked

From the perimeter to the hub

In the same way that smart machines embedded with sensors and data analytics provide valuable insight into asset utilization and predictive maintenance needs, “rank marginality”–the term given to “smart people” at the perimeter of the enterprise–assists in gaining a more refined understanding of sales data, customer satisfaction, market performance, and business opportunities.

With smart machines, for example, sensors inserted in factory equipment can measure oil temperature, water pressure and even microscopic metal fragments. This constant flow of data is interpreted by data analytics software using sophisticated algorithms to inform other machines to slow down production or speed it up.

“People at the edge of the business can do the same, as they often know more about what is going on in their area of work than someone at headquarters,” Borg says.

A good example would be a salesperson at the Beijing-based outlet of a global electronics retailer. Arguably, he or she would know more about Chinese customer interests and concerns than an executive in Chicago not in daily contact with such individuals. “By developing business technology around these business interactions, and ensuring the proper flow of real time data to the right decision makers in the cloud, more insightful decisions are probable,” says Borg.

One way to imagine this flow of performance information is to picture a bicycle wheel—the flow of data would come from the tires touching the ground (where the business action is, so to speak) through the spokes to a centralized cloud-based hub (where the decision-makers do their thing).

The Securing of insight

There is only one problem with this infrastructure: securing it from attack. This is the vital role that would be played by a VPN. As Borg sees it, the VPN would be the encrypted spokes—he prefers the term “tunnel,” but that ruins the analogy—connecting the tires to the secured data storage facility in the cloud-based hub. The VPN would guard the spokes as virtual sentry posts. “The data in the `tunnel’ would be encrypted from the end point or edges of the organization through to the secure cloud, even though it is transported over a public network,” he explains.

In the past, VPNs would not have had the processing power needed for every challenge brought about by the Internet of Things, but this is changing, says Borg. “To do the encryption and de-encryption using smartphones and tablets is less of a big thing these days, thanks to dual-core, quad-core and even octo-core mobile devices running on 2.3 gigahertz. Networks are getting faster, and batteries are getting stronger. A VPN at some point will be essential to this new business technology.”

Russ Banham is a Pulitzer-nominated business journalist and best selling author. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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