VPN, ZTNA, SASE, SSE, SDP – What Exactly Does Your Small Business Need?

SMBs are a favorite target of cyber criminals. Read on to learn how you can get network security that reduces your business network’s attack surface.

The growth of cloud services makes it easier than ever for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) to create information technology (IT) infrastructure without breaking their budgets. But like all businesses, SMBs face an increasing number of threats.

Security Intelligence reports that, in 2019, “... 43% of attackers went after small businesses, and in 2021, 60% of SMBs said they were victimized by a cyberattack.” That trend only grew stronger as 61% of SMBs reported being hit by a successful cyberattack in 2023, resulting in significant downtime for 58% of those SMBs targeted, and 39% of those attacks resulting in loss of customer data, according to a survey conducted by BlackFog

Operating a small business is a labor of love, albeit one that often doesn’t afford the luxury of a full IT team that enterprises may enjoy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have the granular access control you need for remote users now, as well as the scalability you’ll need as your business grows.

In this post, we’ll look at the top network security threats SMBs face, the acronym alphabet soup of cybersecurity solutions available, and how CloudConnexa® can deliver what you need to protect your business with reduced cost and complexity.

Top cybersecurity threats for SMBs

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that the following are the most common cyber threats for small businesses:

Phishing: This popular social engineering method tricks recipients into clicking malicious links, thereby providing hackers access to their networks, or divulging Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or sensitive company data like credentials or financial information. Phishing attacks exploit human error by preying on human emotions and negligence rather than system vulnerabilities.

Malware: Malware, or malicious software, is any computer software with malicious intent. A malware attack often stems from a phishing email. Once a malicious actor has access to your network, you’ll need to contain the threat and prevent lateral movement. Failure to do so can lead to a ransomware situation.

Ransomware: Ransomware is a malicious program that encrypts data on your device and typically demands a payoff in return for the decryption key. An epidemic of ransomware attacks has gotten so numerous that Biden administration officials deemed them a national security threat. The key to stopping ransomware is to get better at identifying and isolating threats earlier on in the cyber kill chain. This can be done with:

  • Email security to detect malicious payloads.
  • Improved staff training to help spot phishing emails.
  • A risk-based patching program to remediate vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. 
  • Detection and response tools at the endpoint, and across the IT environment, to spot suspicious behavior before malware or ransomware is installed.

Spyware: A type of malware, spyware infects a user’s device and gathers info, including usernames and passwords. If an employee’s device is infected, a bad actor can use stolen login credentials to access your company network. Endpoint protection can help detect spyware in its most common form, adware, but employee education is your best bet to prevent spyware in the first place. 

Choosing a cybersecurity solution for SMBs

It’s easy to get overwhelmed — quickly — when researching network security solutions for your business. Below, we look into the specifics of some of the most popular solutions available. However, before you choose any cybersecurity solution, take time to review the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. This risk management methodology focuses on five functions — Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover — that will help you get a high-level understanding of your cyber risk and the security solution you need. According to NIST, the five Framework Core Functions (outlined below) “... can be performed concurrently and continuously to form an operational culture that addresses the dynamic cybersecurity risk.”

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework focuses on five functions — Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover — that will help you get a high-level understanding of your cyber risk and the security solution you need.

Identify: Develop the organizational understanding to manage cybersecurity risk to systems, assets, data, and capabilities.

Protect: Develop and implement the appropriate safeguards to ensure delivery of critical infrastructure services.

Detect: Develop and implement the appropriate activities to identify the occurrence of a cybersecurity event.

Respond: Develop and implement the appropriate activities to take action regarding a detected cybersecurity event.

Recover: Develop and implement the appropriate activities to maintain plans for resilience and to restore any capabilities or services that were impaired due to a cybersecurity event.

Given the biggest threats to business networks, and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework Core Functions, the most popular security solutions are VPN, ZTNA, SASE, SSE, and SDP. So what does each solution offer?

What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) gives your business a securely encrypted connection to your private network over the public internet. VPN protection is an important piece of a layered security protocol that protects both company data and personal employee data in motion. Using a VPN service gives you the ability to remotely access important network resources and connect your company’s branches and locations worldwide. A VPN can be used for site-to-site networking and/or secure remote access. 

Recommended Reading: Get an in-depth look at VPNs and the role they can play for your business in How a VPN Helps with Network Security.

What is Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA)?

According to Gartner, “Zero trust network access (ZTNA) is a product or service that creates an identity- and context-based, logical access boundary around an application or set of applications.” Doing this hides the apps from discovery and restricts access using a trust broker and a set of named entities. The broker verifies users based on identity, context, and policies — and stops lateral movement in the network. Because application assets are removed from public visibility, potential attack surface is reduced.

However, it’s crucial to note that ZTNA is not any one singular product or service, rather it is a collection of services and solutions that work together to accomplish the principles of zero trust and least privilege. 

It’s crucial to note that ZTNA is not any one singular product or service, rather it is a collection of services and solutions that work together to accomplish the principles of zero trust and least privilege.

Instead of enforcing a physical network perimeter, ZTNA enforces a perimeter that extends to user endpoints. 

There are three basic principles of ZTNA:

  • Explicit verification — Each user and machine log-in must be verified using two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA). No access is permitted until requests are fully authenticated. 
  • Use of least privilege access — No single user or account has access to all data. Not even high-level employees, management, or executives. Each user is assigned the permissions required to fulfill their tasks — nothing more. 
  • Assume data breach attacks are underway — Network administrators and IT teams operate as if each connection is a potential threat. No user is trusted unless authenticated, and possible injections and other attacks could be hiding on the network and have yet to be discovered. 

Recommended Reading: Download our eBook, ZTNA with CloudConnexa — Attack Surface Minimized, to see how you can use CloudConnexa to enable ZTNA for your business in just five easy steps.

What is Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)?

The Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) model combines network security functions – such as SWG, CASB, FWaaS, and ZTNA – with WAN capabilities (i.e., SDWAN) to support the dynamic secure access needs of organizations. These security capabilities are delivered primarily as a service (aaS) and based on the identity of the entity, real-time context, and security/compliance policies.

SASE solutions move cybersecurity from data centers to the network infrastructure to create a converged security model. The individual security services that create a SASE platform are: 

  • Software-defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN): Applies software-defined networking (SDN) to large-scale WAN for improved agility and app performance as well as easier management.
  • Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB): Software (on-prem or cloud-based) between cloud users and cloud apps that monitors activity and enforces security policies. 
  • Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) and Firewall-as-a-Service (FWaaS): This goes beyond protecting against threats by completely blocking malware before it gets into your network.
  • Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA): Creates a concealing, secure perimeter around application(s) with identity- and context-based access to reduce the potential attack surface.
  • Secure Web Gateways (SWG): Detect and prevent threats, unauthorized access, and malware using a digital barrier and filter between a website and end-point device. This blocks access to potentially harmful sites in addition to cyberattacks.

Recommended Reading: Want a high-level look at the SASE model and the role a virtual private network (VPN) plays in it? Check out VPN's Role in SASE.

What is Security Service Edge (SSE)?

SASE originated with Gartner in 2019, but there aren’t many full SASE vendors. That’s why, in 2021, Gartner introduced a new term: SSE (Security Service Edge). 

This subset of SASE services focuses mainly on the security access of SASE, dropping the WAN networking components. SSE comprises security services — SWG, CASB, ZTNA — but excludes SD-WAN, QoS (Quality of Service), and WAN optimization. SSE’s inability to provide SD-WAN on its own is the critical difference. SSE-related network capabilities include ZTNA, and because near-term cost is lower, SSE’s focus on security may win out over a SASE solution.

What is a Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP)?

A software-defined perimeter (SDP) conceals Internet-connected infrastructure, hosted either on-premise or in the cloud, so it’s invisible to unwelcome outsiders. Authorized users, though, can still access the hardware and software that enable network connectivity and communication between users, devices, apps, and the internet. 

Recommended Reading: Want a zero trust security model without costly personnel and service providers for your small business? Read How CloudConnexa Enables Zero Trust for Small Businesses to see how you can make it happen.

The benefits of using CloudConnexa for your SMB

So, how do you know which solution, or combination of solutions, is right for your business? You might’ve noticed that there’s quite a bit of overlap between VPN, ZTNA, SASE, SSE, and SDP. Fortunately there’s a secure networking solution that combines the most essential elements of each into a single cost-effective, easy-to-use package: CloudConnexa.

Fortunately there’s a secure networking solution that combines the most essential elements of VPN, ZTNA, SASE, SSE, and SDP into a single cost-effective, easy-to-use package: CloudConnexa.

CloudConnexa takes the cost and complexity out of secure networking to keep your business operating safely and efficiently by reliably identifying and routing trusted apps and traffic using an integrated multi-tenant virtual network with built-in critical security functions.

Plus, our subscriptions are based on concurrent connections, not users, so you pay for what you actually use. Get started with three free connections, no credit card required, and scale to paid when you’re ready.



IPv4 and IPv6

  • Full RFC 1918 IPv4 private address range and IPv6 RFC 4193.
  • IPv6 and IPv4 support.
  • Virtual, worldwide, private, secure networking. 
  • IPv4 and IPv6 space for each Tenant/Customer.
  • There is no limited list of protocols or service support.


  • Improve network performance with smart routing.
  • Increase redundancy with multiple network connections.
  • IP-layer networking allows access to all IP-based services.
  • Flexible routing of Internet traffic.
  • Access private services by connecting to any of the worldwide regions.
  • Customers can use their private DNS servers.
  • Routing via domain names is an option, even if there are multiple networks with overlapping IP address ranges.
  • Similar to per-app VPN policies, traffic can be steered into the VPN tunnel on a per-domain basis.


Recommended Reading: Check out Cybersecurity for SMBs: Why Small Businesses Need Cybersecurity for a look at potential security practices and security solutions small business owners can use to proactively minimize network vulnerabilities. 

Unlike other solutions, CloudConnexa:

  • Provides a secure, distributed, virtualized networking platform with integrated essential value-add network security functions. 
  • Also offers the flexibility to augment your security posture with add-on security controls implemented at your private internet gateway to meet your requirements.
  • Consolidates advanced network security, secure remote access, advanced encryption, IP and domain routing, essential intrusion detection and prevention (IDS/IPS), safe content filtering, and firewall capabilities into a single cloud-based service.
  • Leverages the market-proven, open source OpenVPN tunneling protocol that boasts over 60 million downloads.
  • Reduces the cost and complexity for smaller mid­-market businesses and branch locations for larger enterprises.
  • Provides the network security and role-based secure access that is foundational to zero trust networking.
  • Uses Application Domain-based Routing so you can easily route traffic to applications distributed among your various connected private networks using the application's domain name as a route to the network where that specific application resides.
  • Goes beyond tunneling traffic to private resources on your network and gives you unmatched control over internet-bound traffic routing by User Group, Network, or Host.
  • Uses our multi-tenant cloud-delivered service for immediate, on-demand creation of a dedicated worldwide private overlay network, with built-in security features, exclusively for your use.
  • Gives network administrators the ability to quickly and easily scale connections on demand.

Get all the details on CloudConnexa in this datasheet.

Cyber Shield, a built-in DNS-based Content Filtering feature of CloudConnexa, protects against threats such as phishing and malware without tunneling internet traffic. It doesn’t stop there, though; CloudConnexa also helps you establish zero trust network access by defining and enforcing identity-based policies. Then, for added security, it authenticates users and authorizes user access. 

OpenVPN use cases

Ready to get started with CloudConnexa? Create your account with three free connections here

Curious how you can use OpenVPN for your SMB? Check out the use cases below. 

Using Cloud to Secure Private IaaS Access | Secure Remote Access | Secure IoT Communications | Protect Access to SaaS Apps | Site-to-Site Networking | Enforcing Zero Trust Access | Cyber Threat Protection & Content Filtering | Restricted Internet Access

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