Virtual Private Networks or VPN Review have become commonplace for millions of users across the world in both their personal lives and their workplaces. In essence they allow computers on separate local networks (LANs) in different locations to connect to each other across the public connections of the internet without anyone else being able to see or intercept the information that is travelling between them.
They are ideal and vital for connecting employees who are working on the move, from home or from satellite office locations as well as private individuals who need to connect with their home networks when they’re out and about. Users can connect to local networks through VPNs from any type of device, whether it be a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet or even a mobile phone, and from any geographical location as long as they have an internet connection. Some individuals even utilise VPNs to connect to networks in other locations in order to then connect to the rest of the world with the appearance of being in that physical locations.
In short VPNs work by creating a tunnel to connect the two end points (computers, networks etc) through which all information can travel securely. These tunnels are virtual connections which replace the older physical systems such as the dedicated leased lines that businesses would previously have had to invest in to connect their local networks together.
The virtual tunnels actually involve the sending and receiving of packets of encrypted information which are encapsulated within outer packets. The outer packets are also encrypted and pre-programmed with their source and their destination, and only the destination points are configured to decrypt them. The packets are used in conjunction with authentication measures at each end to ensure that the correct users and devices are accessing the connection.
If anyone intercepts the packets as they take their journey across the public networks, they will only be able to determine the firewall/gateway server that they are heading towards, but none of the data contained within them or their final destination on the local network.
Types of VPN
There are three types of VPNs that provide users with the functionality described above and these fall within the two categories: computer-to-network VPNs and network-to-network VPNs.
Computer-to-network VPNs, or remote access VPNs, connect users on individual devices to a remote network via the internet as if their device was actually on the network in situ. The user simply installs software on their machine which creates the secure connection to a gateway or VPN server on the local network. They’re the solution for employees working from home or on the move who need to ‘remote in’ and access work networks, files and systems.
Network-to-network VPNs, or as they are commonly referred to, site-to-site VPNs, in short connect two separate local networks across the internet forming one virtually unified network, using VPN servers on each network rather than software on individual machines. They can be further broken down into Intranet vs Extranet VPNs.
Intranets allow users/employees within the same organisation to log in to a conjoined secure network from multiple office locations. As well as being password protected to authenticate each user, these intranets are usually restricted to only accept connections from the specified networks. They are therefore ideal for businesses which are spread across different geographical sites so that employees can work on the same files, folders and systems seamlessly without having to replicate these on each network or transfer them less securely across the internet.
Extranets work in a similar way, however they are used to provide a common network space for users not just across locations but across organisations. The networks that are connected together are therefore under the control of these distinct organisations and their respective network administrators. The common example would be a secure network accessed by both a supplier and their client. The scope of the virtual network would be more limited so that the organisations don’t have access to each other’s entire networks and intranets.