A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology that creates an encrypted connection over a less secure network. The benefit of using a secure VPN is it ensures the appropriate level of security to the connected systems when the underlying network infrastructure alone cannot provide it. The justification for using VPN access instead of a private network usually boils down to cost and feasibility: It is either not feasible to have a private network — e.g., for a traveling sales rep — or it is too costly to do so. The most common types of VPNs are remote-access VPNs and site-to-site VPNs.
A remote-access VPN uses a public telecommunication infrastructure like the internet to provide remote users secure access to their organization’s network. This is especially important when employees are using a public Wi-Fi hotspot or other avenues to use the internet and connect into their corporate network. A VPN client on the remote user’s computer or mobile device connects to a VPN gateway on the organization’s network. The gateway typically requires the device to authenticate its identity. Then, it creates a network link back to the device that allows it to reach internal network resources — e.g., file servers, printers and intranets — as though it was on that network locally.
A remote-access VPN usually relies on either IPsec or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to secure the connection, although SSL VPNs are often focused on supplying secure access to a single application, rather than to the entire internal network. Some VPNs provide Layer 2 access to the target network; these require a tunneling protocol like PPTP or L2TP running across the base IPsec connection.
A site-to-site VPN uses a gateway device to connect the entire network in one location to the network in another — usually a small branch connecting to a data center. End-node devices in the remote location do not need VPN clients because the gateway handles the connection. Most site-to-site VPNs connecting over the internet use IPsec. It is also common to use carrier MPLS clouds, rather than the public internet, as the transport for site-to-site VPNs. Here, too, it is possible to have either Layer 3 connectivity (MPLS IP VPN) or Layer 2 (Virtual Private LAN Service, or VPLS) running across the base transport.
VPNs can also be defined between specific computers, typically servers in separate data centers, when security requirements for their exchanges exceed what the enterprise network can deliver. Increasingly, enterprises also use VPN connections in either remote-access mode or site-to-site mode to connect — or connect to — resources in a public infrastructure-as-a-service environment. Newer hybrid-access scenarios put the VPN gateway itself in the cloud, with a secure link from the cloud service provider into the internal network.
A VPN – Virtual Private Network – is one solution to establishing long-distance and/or secured network connections. VPNs are normally implemented (deployed) by businesses or organizations rather than by individuals, but virtual networks can be reached from inside a home network. Compared to other technologies, VPNs offers several advantages, particularly benefits for wireless local area networking.
For businesses looking to provide a secure network infrastructure for its client base, a VPN offers two main advantages over alternative technologies: cost savings, and network scalability. To the clients accessing these networks, VPNs also bring some benefits of ease of use.
Cost Savings with a VPN. A VPN can save an organization money in several situations:
Organizations historically needed to rent network capacity such as T1 lines to achieve full, secure connectivity between their office locations. With a VPN, you use public network infrastructure including the Internet to make these connections and tap into that virtual network through much cheaper local leased lines or even just broadband connections to a nearby Internet Service Provider (ISP).
With VPNs, the cost of maintaining servers tends to be less than other approaches because organizations can outsource the needed support from professional third-party service providers. These providers enjoy a much lower cost structure through economy of scale by servicing many business clients.
The cost to an organization of building a dedicated private network may be reasonable at first but increases exponentially as the organization grows. A company with two branch offices, for example, can deploy just one dedicated line to connect the two locations, but 4 branch offices require 6 lines to directly connect them to each other, 6 branch offices need 15 lines, and so on.
Internet-based VPNs avoid this scalability problem by simply tapping into public lines and network capability readily available. Particularly for remote and international locations, an Internet VPN offers superior reach and quality of service.
To use a VPN, each client must possess the appropriate networking software or hardware support on their local network and computers. When set up properly, VPN solutions are easy to use and sometimes can be made to work automatically as part of network sign on.
VPN technology also works well with Wi-Fi local area networking. Some organizations use VPNs to secure wireless connections to their local access points when working inside the office. These solutions provide strong protection without affecting performance excessively.
Despite their popularity, VPNs are not perfect and limitations exist as is true for any technology. Organizations should consider issues like the below when deploying and using virtual private networks in their operations:
VPNs require a detailed understanding of network security issues and careful installation / configuration to ensure sufficient protection on a public network like the Internet.2. The reliability and performance of an Internet-based VPN is not under an organization’s direct control. Instead, the solution relies on an ISP and their quality of service.
Historically, VPN products and solutions from different vendors have not always been compatible due to issues with VPN technology standards. Attempting to mix and match equipment may cause technical problems, and using equipment from one provider may not give as great a cost savings.
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