SAN FRANCISCO — Since the 1990s, the virtual private network, or VPN, has been the digital equivalent of an envelope, something plain and reliable that protects messages or data from prying eyes.
This workhorse of companies’ digital security arsenal had become so commonplace that the arena was relatively static. So much so that a few years ago researcher Gartner stopped producing its famed “magic quadrant” of best products in the VPN market.
“It was so stable that it was hard to make a bad choice,” said Gartner security analyst Eric Ahlm.
But big changes are underway. With the advent of cloud computing and a mobile workforce that expects — and is expected to — work from anywhere, any time, on any thing, new ways to access VPN-like services are popping up right and left.
“The market’s being disrupted as we speak,” Ahlm said.
At base, a VPN is a secure, encrypted tunnel through the Internet created using software. It lets remote users connect to a private corporate network so they can access applications and services just as securely as workers in the office directly connected to the network.
All of which simply means a message goes in one end and travels privately and securely to the other.