What’s a VPN?

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A VPN uses public internet lines to create a virtual private network between branch offices, regional centers, and field representatives. It can use various software and hardware protocols to authenticate users and encrypt traffic. VPN security includes encrypted tunneling, IPSec, PPTP, and trusted VPNs. A VPN is more cost-effective than a traditional WAN and improves productivity. Intranets and extranets are not technically private networks.

A virtual private network (VPN) is a generic description for a variety of networking schemes that allow businesses to use public Internet lines to create a virtual network. It doesn’t have a standard model, but generally uses public Internet lines in one of many unique ways to create a virtual private network. The network can operate between branch offices, regional centers, and field representatives via a variety of software and hardware protocols that authenticate users and encrypt traffic.

Some types of VPN security include the following:

Encrypted tunneling uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption to authenticate users and send information between remote clients and servers.

IP Security (IPSec) encrypts IP packets like SSL, but it can also encrypt UDP (User Datagram Protocol) traffic, one layer deeper into the network model. UDP traffic accounts for only a small percentage of network traffic, but is used in some key applications such as media streaming and Voice over IP (VoIP).

Point-to-point protocol (PTPP) is Microsoft’s VPN protocol and is not considered as secure as others.

Other models include “Trusted VPNs,” which rely on third-party services from an established network provider. The provider handles all network traffic and ensures the security of network communications. Reliable network designs might use multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), layer 2 forwarding (L2F), layer 2 tunneling protocol (L2TP), or later versions of these protocols, such as L2TP version 3.
A VPN differs from a wide area network (WAN) in that the latter uses leased network lines, thus limiting all traffic to business activities only. This is effective but expensive, particularly when the network has to span large distances.
Some companies use intranets or extranets to facilitate “private” communication. These protocols involve password-protected pages or sites that, ideally, only employees and authorized personnel can access. However, connections between remote users and host servers aren’t always encrypted, and intranets and extranets aren’t technically private networks.
A VPN is expandable, much more cost-effective than a traditional WAN, connects field workers, international offices, affiliated partners or customers, and improves productivity. Assuming you take care of building a secure network, it’s a highly beneficial step that can be a huge asset to any business with networking needs.

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