What is a VPN?
A virtual private network (VPN) is a way to make both the content and origin of your internet data harder for other people to see. It uses encryption in a setup sometimes likened to passing your data through a tunnel. The most common use of VPNs is to boost privacy and security, including for business communications. They can also be used to access some geographically restricted content.
While VPN setups vary widely, they almost always use a concept called tunneling. In simple terms, this affects the arrangement of data into packets that are sent over a connection and repackaged at their destination.
Tunneling tweaks the way packets are normally arranged to cover both the information itself and the accompanying data that gives details about the packaging. The name is an analogy for moving something through a physical tunnel that means it’s not viewable to the outside world. The data is often encrypted while passing through the tunnel for added security.
How a VPN operates depends on the context and service. For consumers, it commonly involves routing all internet traffic through a provider’s server, which is connected to the user’s computer through a tunnel. This means even if somebody intercepts or inspects data between the provider’s server and a website, they won’t be able to identify the user or their location.
This can aid privacy and reduce government or law enforcement tracking, as it will be much harder to discover that a particular user is accessing a particular site or service. It’s also possible to disguise the user’s location and help them access blocked content in some locations.
In a business context, the tunnels can connect to the company’s own server or servers. One reason to use VPN this way is to protect connections between employees and the wider internet. Another is to protect data transfers between employees in different locations. Although these employees will be using the public internet for some communications, the data is protected as if they were using an internal network. The goal is to combine the internet’s “access anywhere” benefits with an internal network’s security and privacy.
A business VPN does have some drawbacks. The setup brings some extra steps in the journey data takes and could even mean data moving between users in the same office has to go via a remote server. This can cause delays (latency) that impact some applications. As with any remote working tool, protecting passwords and other login credentials is important to reduce the risk of somebody gaining access to the VPN and, in turn, other computers and servers.
With all forms of VPN, the person or organization operating the server will be able to track all web activity. This can be a drawback for consumers and means they must use a trustworthy provider. This can be a benefit for businesses, as they can easily track any staff misuse that could pose security or confidentiality risks.
If you’d like to know more about VPNs for business and which option is best for you, contact CPI Solutions today.