How Azure VPN paves a secure path for on-premises networks

Ruth C. | May 05, 2020

Azure VPN can be a robust and security-oriented component of a company’s infrastructure. Over the years, many IT professionals have opted to protect their Azure-hosted resources through the Azure VPN gateway. It allows users to establish secure and encrypted connections between on-premises digital infrastructures and cloud networks. Therefore, instead of experimenting with a variety of digital solutions, companies can achieve the safeguarded tunnel effect through Microsoft’s gateway. However, while thousands rely on the Azure VPN for protection, there are some limitations that can encourage companies to look the other way.

What is a virtual network?

The Azure Virtual Network (VNet) is the foundation for your private network on Azure. It isolates your environment so you could safely use virtual machines and applications. The virtual network gives you a high degree of control as well. You can use your private IP addresses and define subnets, manage access control regulations, and implement other provisions.

Therefore, by launching a virtual network, you get the privileges and benefits similar to a private datacenter. For one, you can use the isolated environment to control the VPNs in Azure or link individual VNets. But how do you create a virtual network? You can do this by accessing the Azure portal and finding the “Virtual Network” option under the “Marketplace” section.

What is Azure VPN?

Azure VPN refers to a unique virtual network gateway set to transmit encrypted traffic between the Azure virtual network and an on-premises location over the public internet. IT professionals use this for protection and access control: both crucial for the connection between external and internal environments.

Once you prepare the VNet for use, you can assign a gateway to it by following specific guidelines. For instance, one virtual network can only have one gateway. However, a single gateway can establish several connections but bear in mind that the available bandwidth distributes across the multiple connections.

According to experts, the setup process of the Azure virtual network gateway takes approximately 45 minutes. However, the actual time-span depends on the selected gateway settings. The connection of the Azure VPN counts on several resources that have specific configurations. You can configure all resources separately, but some of them require a more hands-on and sequenced process. Therefore, before selecting settings for individual resources and the VPN gateway, learn about connection types, gateway subnets, SKUs, and other related concepts.

Available connection types

With a site-to-site VPN, Azure enforces secure connection from your on-premises networks to Azure. For this process, the service uses industry-standard protocols such as Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) and Internet Key Exchange (IKE). The site-to-site connection is a more permanent solution, staying strong against irregularities in the server or the workstation. Why? Because the connection launches from the network gateway instead of the computer operating system.

Multi-site connection refers to a slightly different Azure VPN connection. It occurs when you establish several VPN connections from your virtual network gateway, usually linking to multiple on-premises sites. In this case, the main requirement is the use of a dynamic gateway known as the Azure RouteBased VPN.

There is another option: a point-to-site connection. However, with the Azure point-to-site VPN, limitations make the connection less immune to common issues. If you log-off or lose connection, you will need to reestablish the connection manually.

The benefits of Azure VPN

  • After the Azure VPN gateway is ready for action, users no longer need to worry about tracking new releases or installing security patches. The security updates are automatic, meaning that users are always up-to-date.
  • Both site-to-site and point-to-site connections are possible from any location, giving users the ultimate freedom to access networks remotely. Professionals from a range of sectors can work on their projects anywhere, even in a coffee shop offering public Wi-Fi.
  • It is true that Microsoft charges users for the Microsoft Azure VPN, but not in the traditional manner of requiring a fixed fee for their services. Instead, users pay for the exact amount of time that the connection is used. However, the price can vary depending on the selected options, such as whether users apply the ExpressRoute for more robust performance.

Some alternatives to the Azure virtual network gateway

Setting up the Azure VPN is not an easy task, and it might not work as intended without a considerable amount of reconfiguration and adjustment by the user. Therefore, this is a hands-on project. Even if your existing VPN setup is compatible with the gateway, the full integration will require some attention.

Another opinion is that the Azure VPN relies too much on the client-side. As mentioned before, dealing with the point-to-site connection can be more inconvenient than effective. For example, it requires users to install a security certificate on-premises, not from the Azure cloud environment. Additionally, if network settings of an Azure virtual machine change, users must reinstall the gateway. While the pricing for the Azure virtual network gateway is reasonable, smaller companies might lack funds to go for more high-speed connections.

As a result, users might be looking for less complicated options. If the company’s main concern is secure remote access, they can consider using OpenVPN’s Access Server. You might not fancy the idea of using OpenVPN since it has a set of problems related to management and setup processes. Therefore, businesses could consider Zero Trust as an alternative.

Why should companies prefer the Zero Trust approach?

The Zero Trust model is not a difficult concept. At its core, it assumes that all devices, networks, and users are unreliable until proven innocent. An increasing number of companies integrate this concept into their world, requiring identity verification for all, even when they are within the network perimeter.

In the traditional sense, companies trust all users and devices inside the network by default. The Zero Trust concept is a response to thousands of data breaches that are not only extremely costly but can ruin the company’s reputation. Therefore, it is no surprise that organizations embrace the Zero Trust model or use other protective measures to stay safe.

Ruth C.

Ruth C.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.



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