When it comes to security, it can be challenging to keep up with shifting best practices. For instance, the use of a virtual private network has long been a staple to secure remote operations, and any decent IT service provider would recommend its use. However, this advice is changing with the growth of zero-trust access protocols.

Let’s compare these two security options to consider why this is.

Defining Virtual Private Networking and Zero-Trust Access

In order to properly compare these two security tools, it is important that we establish what each of them is meant to accomplish.

Virtual Private Networking, or the use of a VPN, creates a protected connection between two network endpoints via encryption. Let’s say you were stuck in an airport during a layover, but you had your work laptop with you. By using the VPN, you could connect back to your business’ infrastructure in order to access the data you need, without your activity being visible to others who may be snooping on the airport’s wireless network.

Zero-Trust Access is a strategy in and of itself that turns the principle of least privilege into an actionable approach, requiring comprehensive verification at each and every step of any business process. Fundamentally, the thesis of zero-trust is that everything and everyone is a threat until they are confirmed not to be—with this confirmation regularly verified throughout the user’s processes.

These two methods take very different approaches to securing your business. With the VPN, the focus is on keeping threats out, without particularly restricting the activities of those who have been authenticated. Zero-trust access, on the other hand, provides access to only what an authenticated user requires to fulfill their responsibilities.

What Does a VPN Do Compared to Zero-Trust Access?

Let’s break down different aspects that you need to keep in mind in terms of what each option provides.

Breach Containment

Should a breach occur, a VPN may help prevent the attacker from accessing more than what the VPN itself was directing toward, whereas a properly-configured zero-trust implementation will limit the breach specifically to the device, service, or application.

Cloud Support

Generally speaking, a VPN is hosted on-premise, although cloud options do exist. Zero-trust is typically hosted in the cloud, meaning that it works well in cloud-hosted applications.


This is the crux of our discussion. All a VPN does is create a secure means of accessing different networks. Comparatively, zero-trust access does the same, but also restricts access within these networks based on predetermined policies.

Remote Support

With remote work being more prevalent than it has been in the past, ensuring a means of accessing the workplace securely is a more pressing need. A VPN enables remote workers to do so, while a zero-trust network does the same, but does so on a more granular level.

Security Strength

While the VPN does a great job of protecting data while it is being sent between two separate networks, that protection stops once each network is reached. The zero-trust network provides excellent security at every point, for every resource.

These comparisons make it pretty clear that both offer sincere benefits to a business’ security, and that both should have a welcome place in your business security infrastructure. That being said, it is also understandable why today’s security experts are predicting that zero-trust will ultimately take precedence.

In the meantime, RedRock Information Security is here to help you ensure that your business’ technology and cybersecurity are maintained and ready for you to use it. Learn more about our managed services and how they can benefit you by giving us a call at (616) 534-1500.

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