A new study indicates that SSL-based VPNs are growing in popularity and could potentially overtake IPSec as the secure connectivity solution of choice.

The study, conducted by Infonetics Research, is based on interviews with network managers at 250 small, medium, and large organizations from 5 key vertical markets, including education, federal government, finance, healthcare, and retail. Eighty percent of the respondents said they deployed SSL VPNs because of the continually improving security control it offers.

“SSL allows companies to limit user access to a few specific applications or data sources, and does so at the application layer, which is an improvement in security over IPSec,” said Jeff Wilson, principal analyst for VPNs and security at Infonetics Research. “SSL also decreases network downtime, because it can be set up quickly and easily as a disaster recovery solution when other forms of access fail. SSL products that can act as a full replacement for IPSec remote access are available now, and mainstream IT departments now realize they can use SSL for any scenario that currently uses IPSec.”

Respondants indicated that applianced-based solutions are the most popular method of implementing SSL VPNs. Key factors in SSL VPN adoption include ease of configuration and management as well as decreased network downtime during implementation and configurtion changes.

The study, "User Plans for VPN Products and Services, North American Vertical Markets 2006," is available for purchase at Infonetics Research's Web site.

In related news, Microsoft recently announced that it will acquire Whale Communications, maker of SSL VPN and application firewall technologies.