You have to be crazy to let your mobile professionals use the Starbucks Free WiFi without using a low-cost VPN App on their Smartphone, Tablet or Laptop. I'm not trying to pick on Starbucks (although it helped get your attention didn't it?). This issue exists with most FREE WiFi services, including Airports, Restaurants, Cafes, McDonald's, Starbucks, Hotels, etc. It's a bigger concern when you travel overseas.
If you are wondering... A virtual private network (VPN) enables a Desktop, Laptop, Smartphone and Tablet to send and receive encrypted data across open public networks like WiFi. In many small businesses, VPN is more secure than their own private company WiFi network. Wikipedia has a more technical description of a VPN Network
Why You Should Care
There's a popular free hacker app called FireSheep that lets anyone sitting near you in a room see (and copy) everything you are browsing, sending and receiving over a Free WiFi connection. All your passwords, emails, browsing, client info, business transactions, reports... you get the idea. If you have any doubts how easy this is to do, just read the FireSheep Test in this article.
The good news is that some of your existing apps already offer secure data protection. Google Apps and most Banking Apps have encryption built into their service to protect your data over the internet. However, you need to check your other apps to confirm if they are secure when using a Free public WiFi connection.
Is it hard to use?
No. The new companies have made this a lot easier. You need to select a vendor, sign up for a service level, download the app and turn it on. That's it.
In the past, VPN services were very expensive and only large companies used them. Now like much of the new technology today there are free and low-cost versions of VPN. Some services are less than $10 per month per user. The cost is low and the protection is very high. The challenge is always finding the best solution for you and your business.
Small Business VPN Vendors
Based on our research to date, we just started testing the following low-cost VPN services. Cloak for the all Apple Users: iPhone, iPad and Mac laptops ProXPN for Windows, Android, Apple Smartphones, Tablets and Laptops.
Does anyone have any other suggestions for Small Businesses on a tight budget?
Photo Credit: adamr with freedigitalphotos.net