Written by: Daniel Haurey on 05/03/24

While securing access to company networks for remote work or even business travel has long been the norm, the traditional virtual private network (VPN) solution is giving way to a modern option that provides a more manageable connection and a better user experience— secure access service edge (SASE). Which is right for you? Let’s dig into the difference between the two technologies to determine that answer.

Understanding the Difference: VPN vs. SASE

Neither solution is difficult to understand and they are similar up to a point. Both protect network data in motion between remote devices and business networks; however, how that happens is markedly different. Before making any decision about the best remote access solution for your organization, it’s a good idea to complete a thorough VPN and SASE comparison.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) funnels user data through an isolated, secure connection and hides the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the device when it communicates outside your organization’s network. Using a VPN offers layers of security. First, the user’s identity is safeguarded with a VPN connection through a public or shared internet connection, such as a hotel or airport WiFi network. In addition to “hiding” the user, VPN encryption also protects the data sent from the connected device. VPNs are best known for their “zero trust” approach, with every connection authenticated to better protect data and your organizational network.

Secure access service edge, or SASE (yep, “sassy”) solutions provide a more flexible but still extremely secure networking solution. Unlike a VPN solution, which is typically supported with hardware, SASE architecture is cloud-based and bundles cloud security services into a single product, simplifying deployment, support, and management. SASE requires little to no hardware and uses cloud computing to bundle SD-WAN with security solutions such as firewalls, secure web gateways, zero-trust network access (ZTNA), and more. The result is a multi-tenant platform for security that is not impacted by the location of employees, your organization and its data centers, or the activity of other users. SASE eliminates the infamous latency issues of VPN.

Additionally, since SASE solutions are cloud-based, enforcing policies is streamlined, particularly helpful for organizations required to meet regulatory compliance standards such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or those with a dispersed workforce that are especially concerned about reacting to quickly changing cyber threats.

Simply put: Choosing between traditional VPN and SASE solutions revolves around two key points: network security options and cloud vs. on-premises hardware. Traditional VPN tools are standalone applications that often require hardware. SASE solutions combine multiple security tools into one platform hosted and managed in the cloud.

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Which Solution is Right for Your Dispersed Workforce?

While VPN remains a dependable solution, technology industry experts expect more organizations to lean into SASE for several reasons when selecting VPN vs. SASE for remote work. 2023 research from Dell’Oro Group estimates the SASE market will grow at a compound annual rate of 30%  through 2027, highlighting the growing popularity of SASE implementations.

The reasons are simple: Traditionally, network security revolved around the idea that organizations should send traffic to corporate networks, where cybersecurity solutions lived. When nearly all employees worked from brick-and-mortar offices, that approach made complete sense. VPNs provided a secure pipeline into those corporate networks for those employees who might work remotely or travel often.

But with the historic shift to remote work over the last few years, that model became increasingly difficult to maintain and manage, raising concerns about remote workforce security. The focus has turned toward the user-centric approach of SASE. In a comprehensive article explaining SASE benefits, TechTarget shared several pros and cons of this increasingly popular solution:

  • Management: With a single management platform to view activity and enforce security policies across your organization, SASE can simplify management for IT teams and MSPs supporting remote workforces.   
  • Network Simplicity: The cloud-based architecture eliminates complex network infrastructure. SASE is designed for simplicity, ease of maintenance, and accessibility, regardless of where your headquarters, employees, or data centers are located.
  • Integrated, Cloud-based Security Services: SASE services, when effectively implemented, provide enhanced security by safeguarding data and mitigating attacks such as spoofing and malicious traffic. The solutions can also deliver encryption for remote devices and enforce inspection policies for risky networks such as public Wi-Fi.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: By consolidating network and security options into a single service, SASE eliminates the need for multiple security appliances and tools, resulting in lower hardware, software, and maintenance costs. Its cloud-based approach also streamlines SASE deployment, making it more scalable as well as less expensive.
  • Scalability: As with all cloud solutions, SASE can scale based on network requirements, allowing organizations to add or remove services in response to evolving business demands.

Many of the negatives associated with SASE are common questions raised about innovative IT solutions: vendor lock-in, the risk of a single point of failure tied to the bundling of several critical services, the challenge of hybrid workforce connectivity, integration issues with legacy systems, and a lack of standards for deployment and performance expectations.

When it comes to VPN vs. SASE, if you’re concerned about selecting and deploying the right solution for your organization, let Exigent help. We’ll uncover the best approach to creating a productive user experience with full access control and security functionality, supported by clear policies that guide your team whether they are fully remote, hybrid, or just on the road for work travel.

Schedule a consultation today