Virtual private network (VPN) connections have been in use since the 1990s, but you may have heard more about them in recent years. That’s because many companies made use of them during the pandemic to equip their workers to shift to remote settings without compromising cyber security policies. In many organizations, VPNs are being replaced with a comprehensive software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) solution, but VPNs still play an important role for businesses.
What is a VPN? A VPN creates a secure connection over insecure networks such as the public Internet. While they are generally used to connect remote workers, they are increasingly being utilized as a way to connect the internet of things (IoT) devices securely.
How Does it Work? A VPN is launched when an end user connects to a VPN client, which is a software application on their device. This is used to connect to a VPN server. The VPN server handles the connection between the user’s device and the network they want to access.
It’s easy to install a VPN. Many platforms come with a VPN already built in. Once the connection is made, the remote user’s device appears on the network just as if the user were inside the office’s four walls.
When a remote user accesses the network via VPN, all traffic is routed to the corporate network. That means even if the user is accessing servers geographically closer to them, the traffic still routes through the corporate network, causing a potential for inefficiency.
Benefits of a VPN: Even with this potential inefficiency, VPNs are a fantastic approach to remote connectivity without compromising cyber security. It also treats computers accessing the corporate network as if utilizing resources in-house, avoiding problems with de-prioritizing certain devices. If an employee is working out of the country, a VPN allows them to sidestep local Internet limits and obfuscates where those sites are being utilized.
For instance, if you have an employee working in another country, tight access controls could prevent them from performing job-related tasks, but with a VPN, they can use the Internet just as they would inside your headquarters.
Types of VPNs: Two basic types of VPNs handle most scenarios:
- Remote Access VPNs are the most common type. Remote access VPNs are temporary connections that shut off when the user has finished a specific task. Access is granted using some type of multi-factor authentication. Remote access VPNs reduce costs by allowing the user to connect without a dedicated physical circuit. The downside with remote access VPNs is that performance can be inconsistent.
- Site-to-Site VPNs are used to connect branch locations to the corporate office. Connections are established on a network device, such as a router or firewall, rather than on a specific user device. Like remote access VPNs, site-to-site is a good idea when you don’t want to use a dedicated physical line.
Choosing a VPN is a good way to address remote connectivity without compromising cyber security. Contact us at Safari Solutions to learn how VPNs fit into your overall technology strategy. By using a holistic approach to tech solutions, we help you identify the best fit for your environment rather than simply solving an isolated challenge.