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Review: SSL VPNs

The number of mobile and remote workers will grow to more than 150 million worldwide by 2006, according to IDC. That's good news for cube dwellers yearning to be liberated, not so good for IT managers who must scramble to provide secure remote access tailored to a variety of user groups while meeting regulatory requirements. No matter where an employee connects from, critical resources must be protected. The days of providing a point solution for each access requirement are long gone.

Coincidentally (or not), the SSL VPN market has exploded in the past three years, with Frost & Sullivan forecasting continued growth at an annual rate of 49 percent through 2010 with sales exceeding $2.46 billion. Why an SSL VPN? Because permitting users to connect over the Internet through TCP Port 443 using any Web browser, rather than requiring installed client software as with IPsec, will make your life easier with no reduction in network security. SSL VPNs can traverse firewalls and handle NAT (network address translation). IPsec

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VPNs can handle NAT as an optional component of IKE (Internet Key Exchange) version 2, but not without added complexity. In addition, with SSL VPNs access occurs at the application layer, enabling granular access control, and they're highly scalable to boot.

Now, we don't expect companies with large investments in IPsec VPNs to do forklift changes to SSL. In fact, IPsec and SSL each have their place in the enterprise and can co-exist nicely. IPsec VPNs are the ideal solution for long-term, static connections between remote sites and are a manageable way to grant small user populations secure remote access. But make no mistake: An SSL VPN is our top choice for providing access to large numbers of mobile employees and for extranet environments.

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