VPN vs SDP: Which Technology Is Best for You?

Setting up your IT infrastructure and online security isn’t something you want to get wrong the first couple of times, get on the front side of VPN vs SDP technology for your business.

VPN vs SDP: Which Technology Is Best for You?

Cyber-attacks are getting more expensive and widespread over time. In 2018, for example, security expert Identity Theft Resource Center, reported that half a billion personal data were stolen by hackers. And these attacks do not target big businesses only, but even small and medium businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals. 


In fact, Juniper predicts that the average cost of cybercrime in 2020 will surpass $150 million. The staggering severity and rapid growth of cybercrime has led businesses to implement various cybersecurity to minimize the risks. 


VPN or virtual private network has been the go-to online security solution of most businesses and individuals from various industries. 2017 has seen a 185% growth in VPN use and this number has further risen by 165% in 2018. VPN is one of the most popular online privacy tools because it offers a blanket solution to all your security needs. It protects by encrypting your internet traffic and routing it through a secure VPN server so that you can browse the internet safely and anonymously. It is also the most common method used by enterprises to securely access remote networks.  


However, a new cybersecurity solution is threatening the reign of virtual private networks. Software-defined perimeter or SDP is an emerging technology that provides users with safe access to any resources from any location around the world. It does away with hardware restrictions and relies solely on software to secure the network. This setup makes it ideal for mobile devices, working on a need-to-know basis. According to the experts behind this new technology, SDP will soon replace VPNs because the latter was not designed for the world of mobile devices. 


Will VPN become obsolete? How will SDP change the cybersecurity landscape? Does the new technology have what it takes to deal with the evolving cybersecurity threats? These are some of the questions that we will shed light on in this guide, as we dissect how each technology works and discover their advantages and disadvantages. 

What Is a VPN and How Does It Work?


VPNs or virtual private networks have been providing safe and anonymous access to the internet for more than 20 years via end-to-end secure connection. This is done by creating a secure digital tunnel from the device to the VPN server. The data is also protected by a strong encryption technology that renders the information useless when accessed by unauthorized entities. 


VPN was initially designed as a secure way of accessing a remote network by enterprises. But over the years, VPN usage has grown exponentially and users have found other uses for the technology. 


VPNs are commonly used to: 

  • Mask the user’s IP address and browse the internet anonymously. 
  • Escape monitoring and activity tracking by government authorities, ISPs, and marketers. 
  • Unblock geo-restricted content, such as Netflix and Hulu. 
  • Bypass network restrictions and internet censorship. 
  • Access restricted websites. 
  • Download large files securely from the P2P network. 


For a VPN to work, you need the following components: 


  • A device that can connect to the internet (laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone)
  • A client software provided by the VPN service provider
  • A network access server (NAS), also known as a media gateway or a remote-access server (RAS)


Using a VPN to protect your online security should be quite easy. All you need to do is subscribe to a reputable VPN service provider, install the VPN client on your device, turn the VPN on, and go about your online activities without worries. 

Advantages of Using a VPN


VPNs are popular for several reasons, including:

1. It hides your online identity. 


When you connect to the internet via VPN, the VPN server replaces your IP address with a temporary IP and hides the real one. This allows your digital footprints to be untraceable, preventing attackers from using your real IP address to find out more about you. Using a VPN also prevents ISPs and government surveillance agencies from monitoring your online activities. 


Additionally, routing your traffic via VPN keeps your data safe from advertisers. ISPs, websites, and even Google, can either share or sell your data with third-party advertisers, thereby putting your privacy at risk. Using a VPN ensures that your data remains private at all times.


2. It allows you to bypass geo-blocks. 


Want to watch a Netflix movie that’s available only to US subscribers? Using a VPN allows users to bypass these restrictions. When you connect to a restricted service or website using your regular connection, you’ll get an error message or notification saying that the content is not available in your area. This is because the IP address associated with your device is blacklisted by the service you want to access. 


But when you connect using a VPN, your real IP address is hidden and replaced with one that is not blacklisted. So even if you’re from Japan or Russia, you can access US Netflix by connecting to a US VPN server. 

3. It secures your online transactions. 


In a digital world where people spend most of their time on mobile, finding a secure Wi-Fi connection is a challenge. There are many free hotspots –yes, but they also pose a lot of risks. Because of the lack of security, attackers can easily steal your credit card details, bank account information, login credentials, and other sensitive information. 


Using a VPN protects your personal data by encrypting your internet traffic. So even if you connect to the free Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop or at the airport, you don’t have to worry about others snooping in on your activities. 

4. Remote access. 


One of the advantages of using a VPN in the corporate world is that it allows easy and fast file sharing through the secure network. Employees can access information remotely even from home or from any other place. This is ideal for work setups where employees are assigned at different locations but need to access the same information system. 


VPNs offer a lot of advantages for individuals, businesses, enterprises, and other users. Because of the way it works, users have found several other ways to use VPN, aside from its original purpose of providing a secure internet connection. 


Is VPN going to be obsolete? This won’t happen in the near future because of the many benefits of using a VPN. 


Now, let’s take a look at SDP and why they say it will soon replace VPNs. 


What Is SDP and How Does It Work?

The Software-Defined Perimeter or SDP is a new technology that restricts access and provide secure access to networked systems. This technology does not use the encrypted tunnel that VPNs use, but relies on dynamic, one-to-one segmented network connection between the user’s device and resources they want to access. 


SDP runs on a Zero Trust model that requires authentication and authorization every time a user tries to access a resource. The user undergoes multiple checks before gaining network access. The other resources that the user has no authorization to access remains invisible. 


SDP allows IT managers to deploy and authenticate gateways on site and over the cloud, keeping sensitive data within the organization’s network. This security solution helps ward off network attacks such as Man-in-the-Middle, DDoS, Advanced Persistent Threat, and Server Query (OWASP10).


SDP requires three main components for it to work, namely:


  • Client – The software that should be installed on the user’s device. 
  • Controller – Evaluates the user and authenticates every device, granting them individual network entitlements. 
  • Gateways – This is where access is authorized and granted to previously private resources. 


Network traffic between the device and the SDP gateways is encrypted to protect from unauthorized users. 

Advantages of SDP 


SDP might not be as flexible as a VPN, but it also offers several benefits to users. Here are some of them:

1. Designed for the cloud. 


SDP was created with the heterogeneous, multi-cloud environment in mind. While VPNs require physical servers and virtual machines, SDP only needs software to grant connectivity across multiple clouds, domains, and sites. 


2. Global access. 


Just like the VPN, SDP can give access to any resources from any location around the world. This offers global connectivity for both remote and on-site users. It also grants users access at the application level, instead of network-level access.

3. Secured and encrypted connection. 


SDP ensures total privacy by providing end-to-end protection between the client and the gateways. It also encrypted network traffic using mutual TLS encryption for added security. 

VPN vs SDP: What Should You Get?


VPN and SDP are both security solutions that protect users from online attacks. They both use encryption technology and other security features to thwart unauthorized access and keep your data. 


The main difference between these two technologies lies in the type of access granted to the user. For VPN users, they only need to turn on the service and they can use it to access any resources that they want. SDP, on the other hand, implements more control over what the user can access, operating on an authorize-then-connect principle. 


Think of it like this: if the hotel is the internet, VPN allows you to access all rooms inside the hotel while SDP only allows you access to a single, specific room based on the key that you have. 


VPNs and SDPs have their own advantages and weaknesses, and choosing one over the other is not a practical move. If you’re looking for a more flexible security tool, VPN is a better option. Aside from providing an added layer of security, a VPN can also be used for other purposes, such as torrenting, accessing blocked content, or bypassing restrictions. 


But if you’re looking for a segmented and restricted network access control, SDP will be more helpful in this scenario. For example, if you want to access specific application servers, SDP will do the job. 


In the end, it all boils down to what you need. Evaluate first your security requirements so you know which technology will be best for you. Or, why not have both?