Networking Fundamentals: Virtual Private Network (VPN)

For enterprises and SMBs, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) play a crucial role in achieving remote connectivity to break the communication and employee productivity barriers. In 2016, the global VPN market was at its all-time high of $15.46 billion, which steadily increased with every passing year, and it has been estimated that it will hit the $35 billion mark by 2022. VPNs offer secure, low-cost connectivity to different remote networks and users, allowing businesses to expand their workforce network on a global level without having to build physical workplaces in every other location.

Here is the what, why, and how of VPNs that every aspiring networking professional should know about.

What is a VPN?

Virtual Private Networks is a networking technology that allows users to surf the web through an encrypted tunnel. VPNs connect your device (smartphone, tablet, or PC) to another computer known as a server, located in a different region, and enable you to utilize that server’s internet connection to access websites and other resources on the Internet. Based on the location of the selected server, it shows as if you are based on that location, allowing you to anonymize your identity and access online resources that are restricted in your country. On the other hand, VPNs ensure that your device and its data is safe from malicious attacks by providing a safe, encrypted tunnel.

According to Global Web Index, there are several reasons why people use VPNs, such as:

  • 50 percent use it for accessing entertainment content that has been restricted by governments
  • 34 percent use it for accessing news services or social media networks
  • 31 percent use it for staying anonymous while browsing the Internet
  • 30 percent use it for accessing different types of services or sites at work
  • 27 percent use it for accessing restricted sites
  • 18 percent use it for hiding their web activity from government agencies

The popularity of VPNs is largely owed to security issues, such as identity theft, data breaches, Wi-Fi spoofing, ransomware attacks, and others, leading individuals and businesses to keep their online activity secured. And since virtual offices and telecommuting are gaining traction and becoming mainstream, companies have made it mandatory for employees to safeguard their critical data, especially when using unsecured public networks.

Types of VPNs

VPNs can be divided into two main types:

Site-to-Site VPNs

In this VPN configuration, companies use a VPN gateway to send and receive TCP/UP traffic, in contrast to using VPN client software. The VPN gateway encrypts all the outbound traffic, which it then passes through a VPN tunnel to another VPN gateway located at the destination site. The VPN gateway receiving the content packet removes the headers, decrypts it, and relays it to the destination host that is located in its private network

In other words, site-to-site VPNs offer transparent network access to a third-party network or remote connection by establishing static connections. This means that in a scenario where the IP address of a user is changed due to a change in the internet service provider or office move, the configuration of the VPN tunnel must be reconfigured in order to reflect the new settings. This VPN architecture is suitable for connecting entire networks, for example, a company’s headquarters network to a branch office network.

Remote Access VPNs

With businesses constantly expanding their reach on a global scale, many have to resort to VPN software to facilitate the telecommuting and remote working activities of their employees. Also known as mobile VPN, this type enables remote, secure access to company data using the server/client architecture, which works in the following way:

  • A remote host, known as the client, connects to any public network connection with the intention to log into the company’s network.
  • The client establishes a link to the company’s VPN server by initiating a VPN connection. A VPN application is used for creating this connection, which is installed on the remote device.
  • Once the connection has been created, the device is able to access and communicate with the internal systems of the company, just like it would on a local network.

Remote access VPNs are suitable for establishing a connection between individual hosts and private networks, for example, telecommuters accessing the internal network of their company. While most companies prefer working with VPN servers and clients through installing software and hardware, an Internet VPN, in some situations, is a more effective solution.

Why Organizations Need VPNs?

There are several reasons why companies should consider using VPNs for their business data:

  • Heightened Security: Businesses nowadays utilize the online space in one way or the other, which makes them a potential victim for cyberattacks and security breaches due to insecure access to the Internet. Just in the first of 2018, 4.5 billion records have been compromised due to Data breaches, spyware, ransom ware attacks, and other forms of cyber attacks. VPNs ensure that your employees don’t expose your critical data using unsecured, public networks. 
  • Secured Telecommuting: VPNs have become a staple for business travelers that enable them to connect to the company’s network from remote locations in order to access the local network resources. This keeps the company’s data safe and off the grid from unsafe public networks.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: When compared to a physical private network, VPNs have proved to be much more cost effective. This is because for the former, businesses have to lease long-distance connections to ensure secure data transfer. As for VPNs, users can leverage available public networks to access company networks without having to worry about compromising on security.

Become a Certified Network Professional for Proficiency in VPNs

The high demand for VPNs has led to companies to hiring certified network engineers and administrators who are proficient in laying down the network infrastructure with integrated VPN support for its business users. If you are thinking of building your career as a networking professional specializing in VPNs, you should consider doing online certifications and training.

Looking for a reliable platform for becoming a certified network professional from renowned names, like Cisco? Take a minute to look at QuickStart’s Cisco Certification Training program! QuickStart offers a variety of comprehensive, highly-educational Cisco certification training courses that enable you to ace Cisco exams and earn your accreditation for better job prospects in esteemed organizations.