VPN Basics

The acronym VPN stands for virtual private network, which is a special type of network that provides individual people and offices with remote access to their own private networks by using such public telecommunications infrastructures as the Internet. It operates in the same way as renting or owning lines dedicated to an organization’s use but is significantly cheaper. The systems provide extensions to private networks that encompass links across either public or shared networks.

Virtual Private Network - VPN

Virtual Private Network - VPN

Although a VPN shares the same public infrastructure with many other users, it offers privacy by employing various security procedures. It uses tunneling protocols that encrypt data at the sending point and decrypt it upon reception at the desired end. The system creates a ‘tunnel’ in the public infrastructure that only the concerned organization can access. Examples of tunneling protocols used include Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP).

Apart from encrypting the data transmitted, a VPN also encrypts both the sending and receiving IP addresses. This means it offers an effective way to hide IP address. Sophisticated methods are used to ensure packets of data are not altered along the transmission path.

The tunnels can be accessed via computers on which VPN software is installed or other special devices like VPN-enabled routers.

A proxy server, which may be either software or hardware, is used as a gateway to either one computer or an entire network. The server is usually ‘on’ and waits for clients to connect. Although clients may be in the form of hardware, they are often pieces of software that initiate communication with the servers and then log on.

Many companies have realized the huge benefits that VPN offers and are taking advantage of its cost-efficiency to transfer data to remote locations without compromising their security. The use of broadband connection allows fast download and upload speeds and the speeds are guaranteed because the connection is not shared.

In addition to enhanced security, VPN offers companies a lot of flexibility. They can choose their preferred operating systems and connect as many remote locations as their needs demand.

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