The Zscaler Client Connector is a lightweight software agent that enables secure and smooth access to internal applications and resources for remote employees. Part of the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange, the Client Connector facilitates policy-based access control, real-time logging/monitoring, and greater visibility while eliminating the need for VPNs.
The Zscaler Client Connector acts as a secure bridge between remote employee devices and internal applications housed in data centers or the cloud. By seamlessly connecting authorized users to permitted apps, it enhances workforce mobility and productivity.
Specifically, the Zscaler Client Connector provides the following core capabilities:
- Direct, secure application access: The Client Connector sets up a persistent SSL connection with the Zscaler cloud to enable application access using business policies. This eliminates backhauling traffic.
- Granular access control: Admins can define fine-grained access control policies per application to enforce user authorization.
- Real-time logging and monitoring: The Connector offers continuous monitoring and logging for security analytics and auditing.
- No VPN required: By removing the need for VPN setup, the Client Connector delivers fast access and reduces IT hassles.
- Simple deployment: With the cloud delivering security inspection, the Connector seamlessly activates app access across user endpoints.
By ensuring only authenticated and authorized users can access sanctioned applications, the Zscaler Client Connector strengthens the security posture for remote workforces. The next section further details how it enables secure application access.
Enabling Secure Access
The Zscaler Client Connector enables secure remote access by being an integral part of the Zero Trust Exchange. Specifically, it connects to the Zscaler cloud to facilitate user-to-application access based on fine-grained policies.
Without the Client Connector, remote users would need to connect via VPNs and backhaul traffic to centralized gateways for security checks. This introduces latency, connectivity issues, and chokes gateways.
Instead, the Client Connector sets up a persistent SSL connection with the Zscaler cloud. Here is how it works:
- The Connector validates device posture and user identity before activating a secure tunnel.
- With the tunnel active, access policies stored in the cloud then allow/deny access to specific private applications.
- The Zscaler cloud brokers authorized connections between users and applications without traffic needing to go on-premises.
So the Client Connector enables device-to-cloud and cloud-to-application security with integrated access controls. This removes the need for hairpinning traffic and delivers better user experience.
Some key capabilities facilitated by the Client Connector for access include:
- Direct-to-cloud access: Connector sets up secure tunnel to Zscaler cloud, not the VPN gateway
- App-specific access: Granular policies allow/deny access per application
- Real-time analytics: Continuous monitoring of user, device, and app activity
By removing traditional network security constraints, the Client Connector simplifies secure application access for a distributed workforce.
The Zscaler Client Connector comes packed with advanced features to enable secure application access while providing admins granular control and real-time visibility.
Access Control Policies
The Client Connector uses identity and context to evaluate access policies for applications managed through Zscaler Internet Access (ZIA) and Zscaler Private Access (ZPA).
Based on rules defined in ZIA or ZPA, it controls which users can access which applications and resources. These access policies offer:
- User-based rules: Allow/deny resource access based on user identity.
- Group-based rules: Apply blanket policies across groups like contractors, partners etc.
- Context-based rules: Check device posture, location, IP reputation before allowing access.
By distributing access policies globally in the cloud, authorization decisions happen instantly at access time.
Real-time Logging and Monitoring
The Zscaler Client Connector provides continuous monitoring and logging of user activity for security and audit purposes.
Its logs offer rich details covering:
- Users, groups, devices, and locations accessing applications
- Data transfers and network connections between entities
- Policy changes, errors etc.
These logs feed into monitoring dashboards and security analytics systems like SIEMs. So admins get full visibility in one place.
Inbuilt Security Controls
As software-defined secure access, the Client Connector has cloud-delivered security controls built-in, including:
- SSL inspection: Decrypts traffic to detect threats
- Advanced threat protection: Blocks zero-day malware using AI/ML
- DNS filtering: Restricts access to malicious domains
- Data loss prevention: Stops sensitive data exfiltration
These overlay security services maximize protection without backhauling traffic.
Integration with ZIA and ZPA
The Client Connector seamlessly integrates with Zscaler Internet Access (ZIA) and Zscaler Private Access (ZPA) to enable secure connectivity.
While ZIA protects external internet traffic, ZPA secures private application access. The Connector activates policies from both to allow authorized access.
This unified approach simplifies management while closing security gaps across different access channels.
By transforming secure access, the Zscaler Client Connector provides these key benefits:
Improved Security Posture
The Client Connector strengthens the security posture for organizations with remote employees in these ways:
- Enforces identity-based application access
- Checks device health before granting access
- Encrypts traffic end-to-end
- Blocks threats in real-time
- Gives admins full visibility and control
Together, these capabilities minimize vulnerabilities while protecting apps and data.
Reduced Risk from Attacks
Software-defined connectivity via the Connector reduces the risk surface by removing traditional VPN infrastructure.
Without complex gateways in the DMZ, there is no local attack vector that can be exploited to target resources on the private network. This shrinks risk.
Higher User Productivity
The Client Connector delivers fast, seamless, and reliable application access which translates into:
- Fewer connectivity disruptions that hamper productivity
- No complex VPN setup slowing users down
- Consistent experience regardless of user location
By reducing friction, it enables employees to be more engaged and productive.
Simplified IT Management
With the Connector, IT teams no longer waste cycles troubleshooting VPN infrastructure or scaling gateways for demand spikes.
Instead, centralized access policies delivered from the cloud simplify management while enhancing agility. One consolidated dashboard provides full visibility too.
Lower Networking Costs
Software-defined connectivity powered by the Client Connector reduces network bandwidth costs associated with backhauling traffic to centralized gateways.
Direct-to-cloud proxying is 65% more efficient compared to VPN concentrators. This adds up to significant WAN savings.
Deployment and Management
Deploying the Zscaler Client Connector across an enterprise environment is straightforward. Here are best practices to roll it out and manage it effectively:
Downloading and Installing
Admins can download installation packages for the Zscaler Client Connector from the Admin portal. Packages are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.
For mass distribution, the MSI package can be hosted on an internal server and deployed using software management tools.
To install the Connector, users simply double-click the MSI and follow the prompts. No admin rights are required.
Configuration and Management
The Zscaler Admin portal provides a central dashboard to configure policies and manage Connectors enterprise-wide.
Through this dashboard, admins can:
- Define access rules per application
- Group applications into segments
- Customize allowed IP ranges
- View audit trails and analytics
Changes to policies propagate quickly to governed devices.
Deploying Across Endpoints
For large rollouts, batch activation can onboard thousands of users simultaneously.
The Connector installation package is lightweight too – less than 25MB. So it won’t strain devices or networks.
Ongoing enhancements ensure compatibility with the latest OS versions and patches.
Driving User Adoption
Best practices to drive adoption across employees include:
- Communicate how the Connector enhances experience
- Share self-help resources to solve issues
- Highlight advanced capabilities like split tunneling
- Incentivize usage through security awareness training
Proactive change management ensures users understand the benefits. This maximizes utilization.
In most cases, the Zscaler Client Connector works seamlessly without issues. But problems can occasionally crop up.
Here is troubleshooting guidance to quickly resolve common problems:
Connectivity and Latency Issues
If users face problems connecting to applications check things like:
- Client Connector status and errors in the interface
- Network connection working properly
- Relevant app access policies enabled
- Server health/availability
Also try resetting the Connector to force reestablishment of the tunnel.
Determine if policies are defined properly by:
- Confirming locations match between user and policy
- Tracing policy inheritance if using hierarchical rules
- Checking for conflicting “allow” and “deny” rules
Leverage the access policy test tool to validate policies.
Don’t hesitate to contact Zscaler support by:
- Checking the product documentation site
- Opening a support ticket if issues persist
- Engaging Zscaler professional services if needed
With some diligent checks, most Client Connector problems can be quickly corrected.
This covers common troubleshooting scenarios – let me know if you need any specifics expanded further or have additional sections to add.