VPN traffic surging in response to increased telework

Virtual private network use is skyrocketing as remote workers and distance learners try to reach their corporate and educational networks from their homes, in the midst of the ongoing global pandemic.

In recent weeks, VPN use around the world has surged, according to reports by multiple VPN providers. In the United States, VPN usage has surged by 124% in the past two weeks, by the reckoning of AtlasVPN.

“We are seeing strong demand in our services as more people spend more time indoors and employees around the world telework. Beyond using a VPN, we encourage users to practice good cybersecurity habits while working remotely,” said Harold Li, vice president of ExpressVPN.

Enterprise security solution company NordVPN reported that it has seen a 165% spike in its business, with the U.S. seeing a nearly 66% increase in the use of business VPNs and work hours increasing from around eight to 11 hours per day as employees working from home access applications during hours that they would normally not be working.

According to Dave Ginsburg, VP of product and solutions marketing for SD-WAN provider Aryaka, that surge in VPN use can mean overloaded VPN concentrators around the world. He added that because the changes have happened so quickly, companies and government entities are scrambling to deal with that overload. Most businesses, Aryaka said in a recent blog post, “cannot afford to keep two high-performance private WAN networks up and running for both corporate sites and home offices.” And while they may have had some remote-work VPN capabilities, they are running up against the limits of their capacity with the sudden need to have most or all of their employees work from home.

“It’s really uncharted territory” for most companies, Ginsburg said. Companies may not have had remote workers previously, or perhaps they only had a small percentage of workers set up to do so.

“Most of the companies offer some type of remote VPN solution but they were never designed to scale for the present situation when all the employees in the region are working remotely,” Aryaka explained in a recent blog post. “As a result, VPN servers are getting overloaded with the number of connections and amount of throughput required to support such a large workforce. To mitigate the scale issue, enterprises are having remote users in the APAC region connect to VPN servers in EMEA or North America.” But that can degrade the user experience, Aryaka added, because the traffic has to traverse the long-haul public internet.

Aryaka is responding to the shift in network traffic with a solution aimed at allowing customers to leverage its private network backbone without having to change their own network architectures, and which utilizes virtualization and remote implementation to allow it to be set up rapidly without any hardware of software requirements, according to the company. Ginsburg said that Aryaka’s customers are using the company’s SD-WAN services as a foundation on which to add flexibility to their network arrangements during this unprecedented period for network management.

Ginsburg explained that it’s not necessarily just latency that is the bane of applications — it’s packet loss, jitter and latency variation. Applications can often adjust to deal with latency if it is at least consistent, but consistency can be hard to come by for traffic traversing the public internet. Another common problem, he said, is that global businesses often have assets in one region or another, hosted by third-party cloud providers, and need to be able to exit the public internet in that region or at least nearby. Cloud providers themselves, he added, are also seeing a massive uptick in the amount of bandwidth that they need to meet demand.

In another blog post, Aryaka detailed some of the changes that it is observing across its own network: video conferencing (which the company optimizes) is up “dramatically,” on-campus traffic is down for large enterprises; some smaller companies’ network traffic has slowed or shut down; and work hours are extending, with more traffic across the company’s core on weekends than is typical.

“Many companies have realized that a proper disaster recovery plan should include the ability of their employees to work from home at a moment’s notice without compromising productivity, data security, and effective collaboration,” wrote Hugo Vliegen, VP of product management for Aryaka Networks, in the blog post breaking down those network traffic changes. “Delivering high-performance private WAN connectivity is not without challenges during a major disaster because broadband networks will be heavily stressed.


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