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How SSL VPN allowed me to enjoy a hot summer's day, a warm pool and a cold beer

2 min read

It was a hot summer’s day just under twenty years ago when my mobile phone rang. The weather during my holiday had been kind so far: the days hot, the pool warm and the drinks cool. It was beginning to feel like a well-earned rest, but as usual, work has a way of intruding and making itself known. I had been taking a break from the sunshine and was updating my parent’s home PC - as you do - when the call came in. An invitation to tender had been released and would I comment on it. I agreed.

Normally, I would have walked to my bedroom and returned with the work-issued laptop to the study, plugged in the ethernet connection, fired Windows 98 up, logged in to the VPN (or tried to - they were very temperamental at times), opened up my email client and then launched the Word document from my email. But this time, I didn’t do any of this.

I fired up the browser on my parent’s PC instead and moments later was accessing my own personal Windows desktop where the email client was already syncing the latest emails. Within a minute, I was reading the document in Word, running on a Windows server on the other side of the world. I was ready to call back and pass on my thoughts and advice on the tender straightaway.

I shut down the session and went back to the pool, armed with a cold beer to celebrate. All this had taken place in the time it would have taken me to fetch my work laptop and start it up. That’s when I realised that I had made the right choice in joining my new employer, Netilla Networks.

SSL VPN technology was way ahead of its time, allowing users to access Microsoft Windows Terminal Services (now Remote Desktop Services) over RDP through a secure browser session from literally any PC anywhere in the world. In the days when the Citrix alternatives were slow, clunky and very expensive, the Netilla solution stood out from the crowd. It was fast, lean and, thanks to some early end-point attestation and containerisation technologies, secure too.

You could use it from an unmanaged home PC, or even an internet cafe PC, without having to install software or change any settings. It was an amazing and game-changing technology.

Netilla sadly is no more. However, the story doesn’t end there.

Our main competitors back then weren’t the traditional VPN vendors or even Citrix, but another SSL VPN solution from a company called NetScreen, subsequently purchased by Juniper Networks. Recently, many of their VPN technologies were hived off into an independent company, Pulse Secure.

Pulse Secure continues to develop the original SSL VPN technology and incorporate the latest advances in end-device health and security attestation, delivering a superlative “remote desktop from any client” solution.

Curiously, nearly twenty years on and due to the current pandemic, this SSL VPN technology is more relevant than ever before.

Covid-19 has forced most organisations to rethink their working from home strategies. Many have found existing solutions are often unreliable, expensive to scale (both to procure and maintain) and deliver a less than stellar user experience, often impacting on user productivity as well as compromising on security. Organisations want to deliver secure access to data and applications, but ideally to unmanaged devices, including home PCs, where the device health cannot be guaranteed. This is precisely what Pulse Secure delivers.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about this flexible, cost-effective way of improving your remote access experience and security. After all, a zero-trust network access solution may be what the doctor ordered.

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