Leased Line vs VPN - Which Technology Is Right For YOUR Business?

Should your business get a leased line, a VPN, or both? The answer depends on your bandwidth requirements, security requirements and your budget.

If you're wondering whether you can afford a leased line, you can find out by requesting a quote from our free leased line pricing tool.

Leased Line v VPN at a glance

  Leased Line VPN
Provides Connectivity Encryption & Authentication
Examples of Typical Uses
  • Link the Birmingham office to the Internet
  • Link the London office to the Manchester office
  • Link the organisation's main data centre to its secondary location
  • Encrypt data flowing from the London office and the Manchester office
  • Encrypt data flowing from the London office LAN to the homes of staff working from home
  • Stop unauthorised users from connecting remotely to the network at head office.
  • Fast connectivity, downstream AND upstream.
  • The reassurance of fast fix times if a fault occurs, backed by explicit Service Level Agreements.
  • 'All you can eat' pricing. Unlimited usage as standard. No monthly quota. No throttling if you exceed an unpublished 'fair usage' cap.
  • High quality connectivity. Low 'latency', low 'jitter'. May offer traffic prioritisation options.
  • The confidentiality of your data is protected as it flows between your offices, data centres and authorised remote-users.
Right for a stand-alone head office? Probably. It depends on how many staff you have and how much bandwidth they use. If your office has found ADSL to be too slow, you probably need a leased line. Single site companies only need a VPN if they want to provide secure remote access to the office network, e.g. to employees working from home.
Right for the links between your main offices? Probably Probably. This is the most common use for VPNs - encrypting traffic between offices.
Right for staff working from home? No. Leased lines are too expensive to act as a link to employees homes. But you WILL probably need a leased line at head office if you want several employees to be able to connect to your network simultaneously. Yes. You have to protect your confidential data with encryption, as home networks aren't always secure.
Main Options 2Mb, 10Mb, 20Mb, 100Mb connections. Other speeds are also available. With or without Internet access. The amount of Internet access doesn't have to match the connection speed. With or without SIP Trunking (for telephony). With or without a backup connection for added resilience. Provisioned over fibre-optic or copper circuits (depending on the bandwidth desired and the location). SSL VPN - No need to install software on each laptop. Ideal for providing secure remote access for staff and contractors working from home. IPsec VPN - Typically used for links between offices and for users who require more sophisticated tunnels into the corporate network.

The Difference Between A Leased Line and a VPN

A leased line provides a dedicated connection offering lots of bandwidth, but it typically provides no encryption or authentication.

A VPN (virtual private network) provides encryption and authentication over a connection you already have. That might be a leased line. It might be an ADSL connection. It could be a mobile network connection.

Your bandwidth requirements determine whether you require a leased line. Your security requirements determine whether you need a VPN.

Leased Line vs VPN - Which Is Cheaper?

VPNs are cheaper than leased lines, but that's a bit like saying a padlock is cheaper than a motorway. It's true, but it's not a particularly useful comparison.

Businesses often get leased lines for each of their major offices and link these together to form a wide-area-network. Many such businesses, but by no means all of them, run a VPN over the top of their leased lines to encrypt the data flowing between their sites. In practical terms this means they have a firewall at each office, ensuring that internal traffic is encrypted before it leaves the company premises.

Many businesses let staff work from home and to facilitate this they allow some members of staff to connect to the office network remotely. Typically this is achieved by deploying an SSL VPN service (which let staff access IT resources through a standard web browser) or by installing IPsec VPN software on the employees' company laptops. Whichever VPN technology is chosen, employees then connect to the corporate network through their usual Internet connections, which will typically be 'consumer' broadband connections from Internet Service Providers such as BT, Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk.

Even though leased lines and VPNs are dissimilar, cost does play a role in some  'vpn vs leased line' decisions. For example, let's say you wanted to provide 20 employees with remote access to their work PCs from home. It would be prohibitively expensive to pay for each employee to have a leased line.  The only realistic option you have is to let them connect to your network over the top of (far cheaper) broadband connections. To safeguard the security of your corporate network, you would deploy a VPN, so only employees can access your IT resources, and the other members of their households can't.

Cost can also play a role when you're deciding how to link a UK office to an international site. International leased lines are very expensive. So often companies are forced to make do with a cheaper option - buying Internet access locally in each country, then running a VPN between their various international sites to keep the data secure.

A VPN can encrypt your internal corporate traffic before it leaves your office.

'Leased Line vs VPN' may be a false choice. Whether you need a leased line depends on your connectivity requirements, and whether you need a VPN depends on your security requirements. The two questions are typically independent, and many businesses use both technologies.

VPN vs Leased Line - Which Is More Secure?

VPN technology exists to provide security. Leased lines exist to provide connectivity. VPNs and Leased Lines solve very different problems. That's not to say that leased lines are insecure, merely that their job is to provide connectivity, not encryption or authentication.

VPNs encrypt your data transmissions. This means that anyone snooping on your traffic would only see random gibberish instead of confidential data. VPNs don't just encrypt your data in transit, they also ensure that the parties to which it are sent are authorised (in general) to receive data from your network and that the parties transmitting data are who they say they are i.e. there is authentication at the end-points of the VPN tunnels, making sure that only authorised firewalls, servers and users are allowed to connect to the VPN.

Leased lines exist to solve a separate problem - that data needs to get from one place to another quickly and reliably. Leased lines can offer a higher data throughput than broadband: up to 10,000Mbit/s downstream (compared to 12Mbit/s for the typical UK ADSL connection) and up to 10,000Mbit/s upstream (compared to around 1Mbit/s for the typical UK ADSL connection). Leased lines are more reliable than broadband, and if there's a serious fault it tends to be fixed in hours rather than days. Leased lines are usually 'unmetered', meaning you can send & receive as much data as you want without falling foul of 'usage quotas' or 'fair usage policies.' Some leased lines allow traffic to be prioritised, ensuring time-sensitive traffic such as telephone calls and video conferencing streams can be protected from the adverse impact of network congestion. Leased lines tend to have low transmission delays ('latency') and low variation in those delay ('jitter').

Need Help With Your 'Leased Lines v VPN' decision? Give us a call and we'll help

We provide UK businesses with a large range of services, from leased lines to SSL VPNs, IPsec VPNs, firewalls, broadband and homeworking solutions. So whatever you're looking to achieve, chances are we can help. Give us a call on 020 7847 4510 and we'll be more than happy to talk you through the benefits and drawbacks of your various options.

If you are worried that a leased line might cost a lot, don't be - at least not yet. Prices have fallen, so a leased line might well be cheaper than you would expect. To get an idea of how much a leased line is likely to cost in your location, just visit our free leased line pricing tool. It take the details you give to it and gathers pricing from a range of major UK wholesale connectivity providers, to find the best option available at each of your offices.

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