VPN software can be rather costly. The best VPNs can cost hundreds of dollars. But is that really necessary? Are there free alternatives that are just as good? Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and revisit the history of VPNs.
The Birth of Virtual Private Networks
In the modern era of cyber-security, VPNs were born as a reaction to the ever-growing threat of cyber-attacks. In the year 2000, McAfee warned of a massive cyber-attack that would compromise millions of computers worldwide. Although the warning went unheeded, VPNs were later adopted as a way to provide a secure shell to businesses and organizations.
In the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008, the use of VPNs increased as companies looked to protect the security of their financial data. As the use of VPNs increased, so too did the price. Between 2008 and 2014, the cost of a VPN tripled.
In April 2018, the cyber-security firm Threat Stack released a report on the state of enterprise VPN adoption. According to the report, only 43% of companies have adopted VPNs at scale, and only 31% of executives believe that their VPN strategy is effective. The primary reason for this lack of adoption and strategic use of VPNs? The cost. According to the report, 60% of respondents reported that the price of securing a VPN had a significant impact on their decisions to adopt or deploy a VPN. If the cost of VPNs is too high, then companies will choose not to invest in VPNs, even if they are aware of the considerable security benefits that they provide.
The Evolution of VPNs
Even within the last year, we have seen notable shifts in the VPN market. First, we saw the birth of the open-source VPN, which made the technology more accessible to everyone. Then, we saw the rise of the business VPN as companies sought to provide extra security to their employees and customers. Finally, we have seen the rise of the consumer VPN, as the technology made its way into the hands of individuals seeking to enhance their online privacy.
Based on this trend—and the fact that the cost of VPNs has increased significantly over the years—IT administrators are now questioning the necessity of VPNs. Is it really necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on a VPN, when free and open-source alternatives exist? Let’s take a quick look at the evolution of the VPN and how much it costs to operate one.
The Rise Of The Free VPN
In early 2019, we began to see a slew of new VPN services emerge, offering a free tier with limited functionality. Although the cost of these services is zero, they do come with several drawbacks. First, these services are usually ad-supported, which means that they will display ads on your computer or mobile device.
These ads can range from disruptive to the point of annoyance to completely invasive. Furthermore, the amount of functionality that these services provide is limited, as they are designed with the free user in mind. Finally, the free tier of these services is usually shared between multiple users, which can result in significant performance degradation.
The Birth Of A New Era
These free VPNs do have one distinct advantage over traditional commercial VPNs—they don’t require you to register or sign up for an account to use them. Instead, all that you need to do is install the software on your device, connect to a VPN server, and you’re good to go. While this might seem like a great alternative to paying for a VPN service, it comes with considerable security risks. If you’re seeking a simple VPN solution that you can install and forget about, then this might be the one for you, but you should know the potential risks beforehand.
How Much Does A VPN Cost?
With all of this in mind, let’s take a quick look at how much a VPN costs. First, we will discuss the cost of deployment, which includes purchasing the required equipment as well as the cost of a professional services engagement to set up and run the VPN. Next, we will discuss the cost of operation, which includes the cost of paid VPN services and the cost of maintaining a VPN server.
The Cost Of Deployment
The cost of deployment includes everything that you need to set up a VPN, including hardware, software, space, and personnel. Let’s take a look at each of these cost categories.
This is the first cost that you will need to consider, as it includes everything from your computer or mobile device to the networking equipment that you need to connect them to the internet. It also includes the security cameras that you will need to install in order to monitor who comes to your door and what they are doing on your network. This cost will vary based on the type of device that you use but will mostly depend on how much memory and storage space you need.
If you’re looking for a VPN service, then you’ll need to consider this cost as well. Fortunately, this can be a rather small cost to bear as VPNs are now available for almost all popular platforms including Windows, Mac, and Linux. Furthermore, many VPNs are entirely free and open-source, which reduces this cost even more. But you still have the cost of the hardware to consider. This is particularly important if you’re planning on using a mobile device to access your VPN, as most VPNs are not designed to function on mobile devices.
As we’ve established already, VPNs are a form of security software, which means that they require space on your computer or mobile device in order to function. This space is required even when you’re not using the VPN, which means that you will need to consider this cost whether you use it or not. Luckily, this cost is rather minimal as you can purchase small USB drives for this purpose for a few dollars apiece.
This is another cost that you will need to consider if you’re running your own VPN. In order to keep your VPN secure, you will need to devote some staff time to maintaining and securing it. Although VPNs are a form of security software, they are not one-person-operated. This means that you will need to hire someone in order to set up, manage, and secure your VPN on a regular basis.
This cost will vary from person to person but it mostly depends on your available staff and their familiarity with the technology. If you have a single person in charge of setting up and maintaining your VPN, then this cost will be rather minimal as you will only need a computer and an internet connection.
The Cost Of Operation
The cost of operation includes the cost of paid VPN services as well as the cost of hardware and software that you need to sustain the operation of your VPN server. As we’ve established already, VPNs require space on your computer or mobile device, which makes a regular data backup and storage critical. Furthermore, you will need to maintain a VPN server as well, which requires additional personnel and resources. The cost of operation will depend on the size of your VPN, how many servers you have, and how frequently they are updated.
Paid VPN Services
This is another cost that you will need to consider if you’re using a paid VPN service. These are VPNs that you must subscribe to in order to use them. As we’ve established already, not all paid VPNs are created equal, so you will need to do your homework before subscribing to one.
Some VPNs are better suited for certain purposes than others and you will most likely need to pay more for certain features that you need. Furthermore, most paid VPNs require you to sign up for an account and provide your personal information. This information is usually used to provide you with targeted advertising, which you may or may not find acceptable.
Maintaining A VPN Server
This is the cost that you will need to consider if you’re maintaining a VPN server. You will need to purchase and maintain hardware as well as software to function as a VPN server. Let’s take a quick look at how much each of these costs. First, you will need to purchase and maintain a computer or mobile device to function as a VPN server. This will cost you a one-time fee and an ongoing cost from the data you consume. For instance, if you have a 256GB Samsung SSD, then the one-time cost will be around $700 and the ongoing cost will be around $50 per month. This does not include the cost of internet access or the cost of a VPN software license, which can be rather expensive.