Networks Incapacitated: Are VPNs Failing Businesses?


According to research carried out by Virgin Media Business, over a third of CIOs in the UK are forced to upgrade their Virtual Private Network (VPN) annually, at an average cost of £30,000 a pop.

According to Virgin, most broadband providers are failing to keep up with the pace as businesses upgrade to more device-heavy, flexible working-friendly practices and bring more everyday IT functionality into the cloud.

As their bandwidth usage increases, CIOs have to negotiate for more space and, most often, upgrade with their existing providers (most commercial VPN contracts span three to five years) and, of course, negotiate for money for that extra capacity within the business.

However, Virgin’s research came with a self-serving solution: a fixed price VPN service that offers up to 1Gb of bandwidth, without the need for stressful and time-consuming upgrade processes.

58% of CIOs interviewed for the research said that securing finance was a key challenge to upgrading, Virgin said, and 24% said they had to endure boardroom battles during the process.

Wrong focus?

Virgin are clearly out to prove that they can provide companies with a flexible service but could that actually be the wrong focus for CIOs? If flexibility comes at the cost of bandwidth availability and network efficiency it’s a trade-off that could actually end up hurting businesses in the longer term.

There’s a big difference between choosing to scale up and being dragged into extra investment that isn’t necessarily ensuring the most efficient IT structure for the company.

As devices continue to proliferate in the workplace, IT managers and CIOs are increasingly having to learn to relinquish control of how users access their network in terms of hardware and physical location, as flexible working becomes a reality.

That position comes with some upsides – employees arrive already able to use their devices, at least to some extent, for example, cutting out the need for time-consuming and costly training programmes – but it’s still very much up for debate whether those upsides outweigh the potential costs of a ‘free-reign’ approach to VPNs.

The much-hated hoops CIOs have to jump through in order to scale up their capacity might turn out, in fact, to be business’ best friends.

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Julia Kukiewicz is editor of consumer information site Choose. The site offers market research and debate into the home media and mobile and personal finance industries, as well as covering rights issues for consumers. Follow Choose for more on twitter at @choosenet.