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What you should know about Virtual Private Networks

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a popular method for securely connecting remote users and offices to a central network. A VPN is formed through the use of a VPN “tunnel” which allows traffic to flow between networks securely as though they were directly connected. They are very popular options for small businesses that wish to extend the functionality of their office to outside users. In this short post, we will cover the basics of VPN connections and some of the ways they can be used to benefit your business.

VPN Architecture Overview

A VPN consists of a few components: The main network, the remote network or user, and VPN software that allows the two to connect securely. There are two main types of VPNs: Site-to-Site and Remote Access. Site-to-site tunnels connect two different networks together, such as a main office and a branch office. Remote Access VPNs allow individual users to form their own secure tunnels, often while traveling or working from home. In the case of a site-to-site VPN tunnel, the work and software needed to form and maintain the tunnel is handled by special security devices, whereas a remote access VPN typically requires software to be installed for the remote user.

VPN Tunnels allow remote offices and users to connect securely to a corporate office network

VPN Security

Virtual Private Networks typically use high-grade encryption to protect all traffic that travels between the two endpoints. This allows businesses to deliver multiple services (such as e-mail, file sharing, and application hosting) without worrying about securing each one individually.

Common Uses

VPN connections are most commonly used to provide services to remote users and offices that are usually only available locally. For example, many businesses host applications that users in the local network connect to via a server. In the past, being able to allow other users to connect to the server meant either an expensive leased line or dangerously opening up access to the server for all internet users. A VPN tunnel solves this problem by providing remote users with a “virtual cable” into their office that is secured from outside eavesdropping.

New VPN Options for Businesses

Several new options exist to make setting up a VPN connection faster, easier, and more secure. Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 can utilize a new Microsoft technology called DirectAccess that allows users to connect to their main office without being required to install software or enter a username and password. Cisco and SonicWALL both offer SSL VPNs which utilize web browsers to eliminate the need for client software.
Cost Depending on the number of users and offices, creating a VPN tunnel can be very affordable and can often be accomplished using existing services and equipment.

Learn More

Want to know more about VPN tunnels and how they can be used in your business? Contact one of our IT Specialists at 337-896-3681 or