RealTime IT News

Are SMBs Unhappy With Remote Access?

Most small and medium sized businesses (SMB) use some form of remote access technology, but many believe that secure socket layer virtual private networks are too pricey, a new study found.

The study of 1,000 SMB IT administrators was conducted by SSL-VPN vendor SonicWALL. SSL-VPN remote access technology has been clawing at IP-SEC remote access based technologies for a few years. SSL-VPN offers the promise of "clientless" (as opposed to IP-SEC) remote access to a company's applications via a browser-based interface.

The SonicWALL study found that 80 percent of SMBs are in fact using some form of VPN connectivity to enable remote access. In most cases, those options require a high degree of IT support.

The survey reports that 80 percent of respondents thought that current SSL-VPN solutions were too expensive. Nearly 50 percent of respondents though did indicate that they believed SSL-VPN to be a desirable option to have.

"We expected healthy demand for an SSL-VPN solution, but we were surprised by how high this demand was," Jan Sijp, SonicWALL's product line manager, told internetnews.com.

There was, however, somewhat of a lack of understanding as to what SSL-VPN actually is. Sijp said most of SMB network customers have heard of SSL-VPN but half of them don't know exactly what it is.

"What we learned here is that, in addition to talking about SSL-VPN, you also have to communicate the message of easy secure remote access," Sijp said.

SSL-VPN vendor Aventail also noted that lack of awareness is a potential problem.

"There has been a barrier for SMBs to enter into the remote access place because they haven't seen SSL-VPNs and they haven't thought about them," Aventail product manager Randy Boroughs said. "The historical method of access tended to be IP-SEC-based, which are very complex from a networking perspective, more complex than a lot of SMBs felt engaging in."

Though the SonicWALL study found that SMBs though that existing SSL-VPN solutions were priced beyond their reach, the study did not ask which SSL-VPN vendors the respondents had ever heard of or considered.

"We didn't test specifically what vendors respondents considered," Sijp admitted. "However, we did perform extensive testing of various price points and performed various statistical analyses to mine through the data."

Sijp added that the study showed that acceptable price points are far below what other vendors offer in the market today.

"This, SonicWALL believes, partly explains the very low penetration of SSL-VPN appliances in the SMB segment of the market," Sijp said.

The other vendors in the market though, including Aventail, may well be increasing their focus on SMBs.

"We're not seeing the barriers as there were before because of the robustness of solutions and the fact that prices have come down significantly," Aventail spokesperson Margaret Dawson said. "The market itself has become more full breadth in its solutions."