• United States
Executive Editor

The real world expense of administering SSL VPNs

Apr 20, 20062 mins
HDTVsNetwork SecurityNetworking

* What we can learn from the SSL VPN at Aurora Health Care

Aurora Health Care in Wisconsin uses a Juniper SSL VPN to support people who work from home, transcribing medical records. Details of the arrangement can be read here, but the main thrust is that the hospital is shifting from a Cisco IPSec VPN to SSL because it doesn’t want to deal with dedicated VPN clients that would have to be installed on each remote machine.

That is one of the main benefits cited by vendors of SSL VPNs, but that apparent simplicity is more complex. All transcribers hired by the hospital are issued with PCs with a standard Aurora software image on them – a step that seems to ignore one of the benefits of SSL VPNs, namely they can support almost any device with a browser. So why not let the transcribers use their own machines?

Well, for one thing there’s no telling how infected a personal machine is. And there’s no telling what mix of software an individual might put on one. Trying to support such machines so teleworkers can perform a critical task would be a nightmare. The help desk would have to run through an extensive interview just to figure out what type of problem they might be dealing with.

Issued by the health care provider, the telecommuter PCs can be made subject to scans that ensure they are configured according to corporate security policies, reducing the chances they will spread infections. The standard software load also makes the help desk job easier because the machine is a known quantity.

This PC expense is apparently worth it to Aurora, but it might not be the type of expense a business thinks of when figuring out the true cost and return on investment of SSL VPN gear. This particular VPN is used by other types of users, including radiologists reading medical images, so the cost of outfitting telecommuting transcribers may be outweighed by the utility of giving doctors access to important diagnostic tools.

The lesson: The administrative costs that may seem to come along with SSL technology may not pan out in the real world depending on who is using the VPN.