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Everything You Need To Know About A Virtual Private Network (VPN)

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What is VPN?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a point-to-point connection between two or multiple computers/mobile devices over a private or public network. In most cases, this point-to-point connection occurs over the Internet. Businesses and individuals use VPNs to access or exchange confidential information with clients or colleagues. This is because VPNs encrypt information making it hard for cybercriminals/repressive governments to eavesdrop on communication between two or multiple parties. According to a survey carried out by Statista.com, 32% of males use VPNs when browsing the Internet. Only 22% of females use VPNs for the same purpose.

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How VPNs Work

You can think of a VPN as an Internet address that makes it hard to trace the real location of a web user. As a result, one appears to be living where a VPN service provider’s server is located. To achieve this goal, VPNs typically rely on tunneling to deliver data anonymously across the Internet. In simple terms, tunneling is the process of placing a data packet inside another data packet. The purpose of the outer packet is to conceal contents of the inner packet from public view ensuring data travels within a tunnel. IT experts call this data packet layering encapsulation. Computers or mobile devices connected via Virtual Private Networks can encapsulate outgoing and open incoming data packets.

It is worth noting that information transfer via VPNs relies on certain tunneling protocols to ensure data integrity is top notch. Most of these are security and data encryption protocols such as L2TP, PPTP, ESP, L2F, GRE, Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), and symmetric-key encryption. You will also come across other term such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), VPDN, Secure Shell (SSH), and Transport Layer Security (TLS).

What is VPNs: Types of VPN connections

In general, there are two types of VPN connections:
• Remote access
• Site-to-site.

Remote Access VPN

Remote access VPN allows one to access a server on a private network using the internet. This makes it possible to access documents or content as if directly connected to that particular network. For remote access to work successfully, it requires a network access server (NAS) or remote access server (RAS) or media gateway. Secondly, one requires client software to access a VPN. Depending on your data security needs, you may require a firewall to keep cybercriminals at bay. The good news is most modern PCs and mobile devices come with built-in software for accessing VPNs. All you have to do is configure it to suit your needs. This type of access works well where an individual employee is involved.

Site-to-site VPN

Site-to-site or router-to-router VPN connections make it easy for large organizations to communicate with other organizations over the internet. You can think of it as extending a company’s network. For example, a company with offices in multiple countries would use site-to-site VPN to ensure resources are available to employees regardless of location. Take note there are two types of site-to-site VPNs:

• Intranet-based
• Extranet-based

Intranet-based VPNs involve connection of a single company’s remote office branches. On the other hand, extranet-based VPNs involve connection of remote branches of multiple companies that have a close working relationship. A good example of this would be a VPN connecting the offices of a law firm to the offices of its clients.

Conclusion

Virtual Private Networks are increasingly becoming the preferred way of accessing information from remote locations securely over the Internet. Almost all modern PCs and mobile devices have the capability to access VPNs. Some of the benefits of using a free VPN to transmit or access information include data integrity and security, privacy, as well as reliability. Most people use VPNs to access sites that are banned in their countries.

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