Application Interfaces: VPNs are not the answer

You have a new application, vendor or hospital that you need to interface to. Everyone in meeting grumbles about how the application interface will be built, where the resources will come from, and who’s budget will take the hit for adding the new partner.

To get started, you start thinking about everything that will need to happen:

1. A new VPN connection will need to be created to bring the new trading partner onto the network… paperwork with the hosting company or telco, network configuration changes, firewall ports opened, etc.

2. Depending on the application or partner you are working with, you need to understand what interfaces you will need support/build, e.g. does the application have a specific transport protocol you are not familiar with, is there a specific message protocol that you will need to convert

3. Specialist that have worked with these types of interfaces will need to be selected and contracted

4. Depending on how many connections you are creating, you may need to bring on additional staff to manage and support these connections

5. If any value added services such as guaranteed delivery or file tracking need to be implemented, this will increase the scope of contract work

6. Each connection will need to be tested thoroughly

VPNs provide the basic necessity of secure connectivity, but they are a unwieldy solution for IT organizations that are faced with deploying many connections and are limited on technical resources, time, and money.

When working with new trading partners, healthcare application interfaces, or vendors, VPNs may not make the most sense for your needs. Think about some of the problems you may face when adding new VPNs and how you can mitigate those pain points:

1. Are there other secure, application connectivity solutions available? If so, do they offer the most basic needs for interoperability?

2. Does the VPN solution offer file-level tracking, encryption, guaranteed delivery and web portals to view message and data traffic?

3. Are there solutions available that do not require changes to the firewall and/or network

4. Is there a solution that will require minimal IT support, reducing the total cost of ownership for maintaining secure outbound connections?

5. Will these connections continue to meet changing government standards for connectivity or will additional work need to be done to keep them compliant?

6. Is there a solution available that does not take weeks or months to implement?

There are many more questions to be answered, but the basic question is “can you find a better way?”. As technology advances and the Cloud becomes a more trusted platform for offering services, it may be time to start seriously evaluating alternatives to VPNs.



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