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DWF 3Sixty Blog

What actually is a VPN?

Posted by Elliott Seaton on Dec 16, 2015 2:48:13 PM

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There are many sources of information online where you can learn the ins and outs of VPN technology. However, if you don't have time to trawl through pages and pages of techy script and acronyms you won't find these too useful. I have picked out the key pieces of information on a 'should know' basis, so that by the end of this post you will know what a VPN is and the benefits and drawbacks of using one.   

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), along with cloud are used by many businesses in the modern era. The benefits of implementing a VPN are clear to see, as it increases flexibility and efficiency for employees and organisations as a whole, although there are associated security risks.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a group of computers which are connected together over the internet. It acts as a secure connection from any location to a company’s server / data storage.

If an employee needs to access company resources outside of the Local Area Network (LAN),  they can do so via VPN. You would usually access  the network through a VPN client installed on your  computer, using given credentials.

The client would then connect with the organisation’s  server, exchange a few encrypted messages and  hey presto, you have access to the network as if you  are in the office. This means that only individuals with  log-in details can access the network, which makes it secure.

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VPN is simply a tool that enables all employees’ access to the same information, from anywhere, via a secure network.

VPN wasn’t the first technology invented that was capable of providing a remote connection however. You may have heard of leased lines. Leased lines are rented connections from telecommunications companies. They provide a single private network to its customers. However VPN technology, and subsequently Cloud,  soon stole the place of leased lines as it’s a lot more cost effective due to leased lines having to be physically expanded as offices grow.

What makes a good VPN?  

  • Scalability - It’s important for a VPN to be able to grow and expand with the company.
  • Reliability – A reliable network is key to a business running as efficiently as possible.
  • Security – Employees will be accessing private company information so its vital hackers aren’t able to eavesdrop on the activity over the network.
  • Server locations – VPNs can be used to access blocked websites, if a server is located in a country where the content is legal.

Advantages of VPN:

  • Enhanced security – data kept secure and encrypted
  • Remote access – information can be accessed remotely from home or another office
  • File sharing capabilities
  • Reduction of costs – maintenance is very low. If accessing via service provider, setup and surveillance is no longer a concern

Disadvantages of VPN:

  • Resource Intensive - deployment requires knowledge, and lots of it
  • Reliability - availability of connection and performance can be difficult to control.
  • Integration - Systems from different providers may not work properly with each other, causing connectivity issues and convoluted signing processes.
  • Device Security - although the VPN line is secure, it is only as secure as the device logged onto it. If a hacker accesses that device, then they can access your full network as if they are in your office.

In this post I have covered the basics of VPNs. As mentioned, VPN has it's pros but is a slightly aging technology which is now being overtaken by cloud. 3Sixty Systems provides software which can be cloud hosted or on premise and most of our clients choose hosted software. I will be discussing cloud technology in detail in next week's blog post.

As usual, if you have any questions surrounding Virtual Private Networks, our handy technical team are on hand to help. Simply call 0333 010 7999 or email info@3sixtysystems.com.

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