If you’re reading this, I assume you’re either a) a businessperson who needs to keep data secure on the go or b) a student who needs to keep your assignments secure when working remotely. Maybe you’re even both!
Whatever the case, you’re in the right place. Here, we’re going to walk you through how to seamlessly sync and merge documents over a protected socket connection using Google Docs, Google Sheets, and/or Google Slides. Keep reading for more information on VPNs and how to set them up.
Why Should You Sync Documents Over a VPN?
It’s 2019, people. And even though we’re smack dab in the middle of the year, there’s no question that cybersecurity concerns continue to loom over the world of business. After all, most businesses are dependent on technology to function, and as we’ve seen time and time again, technology depends on software, which depends on people, which depend on technology, and so on.
Even more concerning is the fact that more and more employees are working remotely, which means they’re increasingly at risk of cybercrime. After all, it’s much easier to break into someone’s personal devices than it is to stop hackers from breaking into your office network. (Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there too.)
With all of these security concerns, it’s imperative that you protect yourself from nefarious individuals who might want to cause you harm. To that end, working remotely while in a foreign country (or even a different state!) is especially dangerous. (And no, we’re not just talking about the safety of the trip here. As we’ve established, cybersecurity is a global issue and you can never be too careful when it comes to your personal data.)
If you want to remain productive and avoid any possible data breaches, you need to take steps to ensure that your work is as secure as possible. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this impasse: Use a VPN to encrypt the connection between your device and the network you’re connecting to, effectively shielding your data from would-be snoops.
The Basics of VPNs
A VPN (virtual private network) is a network protocol that allows for encrypted connections between two or more devices. Essentially, a VPN creates a secure tunnel through which you can securely exchange data with other parties. In the context of Google Docs, this means you can securely exchange documents with someone else without having to expose your data to prying eyes (or malware!) in the process.
There are two basic types of VPNs: 1) point-to-point VPNs and 2) client-type VPNs.
Point-to-point VPNs are essentially point-to-point tunnels. This type of VPN allows for the simple exchange of data between two parties. For example, if you have a dedicated VPN server at home that you can connect to when working remotely, you can set it up to allow for encrypted connections to specific devices or groups of devices. (I.e., your Google Docs, your Chromebook, your iPhone, etc.)
Client-type VPNs are much more flexible as they allow for the easy setup of secure tunnels between multiple devices. For example, if you have a Google Docs document that you want to share with a classmate who also has a Google account, you can set up a VPN client on each of their devices and connect to the same VPN endpoint to securely exchange documents. In doing so, you’re not tying up your home network in the process.
Setting Up a VPN
Before you begin setting up your VPN, you first need to determine whether you’ll be utilizing the service to connect to a single device or to a group of devices. You can’t use a point-to-point VPN to access a group of devices since they’re often tied to a single IP address. This makes it easy for malicious individuals to identify and track your activity. (If you need a quick primer on how to set up a VPN for a single device, click here.)
For the best overall experience, you should opt for a client-type VPN. This type of VPN is incredibly easy to set up and requires minimal maintenance. That being said, if you’re new to VPNs, it can be a little daunting trying to figure out how to set one up. Luckily, there are many reputable companies that produce VPNs and many services that make setting one up easy as pie.
Benefits of Using Google Docs
Google Docs is the best of breed when it comes to document sharing and collaboration platforms. Not only does it have all of the functionality you’d expect from a collaboration tool, but it also encrypts your data in transit, making it much more secure when transmitted over a network. (Think of all of the headlines we’ve seen about data breaches in the past year alone!)
Another beneficial aspect of Google Docs is that it’s completely free. For those of you looking to collaborate with students or other individuals who don’t necessarily have the money to spend on expensive software, this is the perfect solution.
Security Considerations With Google Docs
Security is one of the main considerations when collaborating with other parties remotely, and Google Docs takes this seriously. To that end, the platform offers several layers of security which you can utilize to protect your data. These layers of security include 1) data security and protection, 2) end-to-end encryption, 3) authentication, and 4) network access control.
Under Data Security and Protection, you can control who can access your data and limit the number of people who can see it. You can also set a file limit on what can be uploaded to your documents. (This is especially beneficial for those of you who work remotely and save your documents on your hard drive. Protecting your data from prying eyes isn’t just a Google Docs thing either – the same principle applies to all network-enabled softwares and applications you use.)
Under End-to-end encryption, you can specify that all of the data within your documents is encrypted, ensuring that information can only be accessed by the intended recipient. To set this up, simply go to the sharing settings for any given document and click the Encrypt button.
Under Authentication, you can specify what type of authentication you require for network connections. You can choose either none, Microsoft, or Google. Once you select Google, you can enable 2-step authentication, which requires that you enter a code sent to your device both when you initially log in and whenever you log in from a new device. (2-step authentication has the added advantage of shielding your data from man-in-the-middle attacks. So if you’re working from a hotel or an airport, you can be sure that nobody is impersonating you while you’re logging in.)
Under Network Access Control, you can fine-tune the permissions for your network connections. This will allow you to control what types of devices can connect to your network and whether or not they can access specific files or folders. (Sometimes you’ll need to allow certain devices or users access to specific files or folders while restricting access to others. For example, you might want to give your employees access to certain files while preventing them from viewing personal information.)
How to Set Up a VPN with Google Sheets
Google Sheets is another great tool in the Google ecosystem. Not only does it have the ability to securely share and store documents, but it also has 1) the ability to make and receive calls, 2) the ability to send and receive texts, and 3) the ability to access the internet. This last one is especially beneficial since it means you don’t have to worry about losing your VPN connection due to network connectivity issues.
To set up a Google Sheets VPN, you’ll need to do the following: