What are VPNs?

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What are VPNs?

Virtual Private net (VPN) is a technology that helps to protect information by creating an encrypted tunnel through which traffic flows between an internet-connected device and VPN server.  By using a VPN, you can hide your online activities and access restricted website without being noticed by the authorities.

The need to keep business or personal data private and away from outsiders has been in human DNA since time immemorial. Around one decade away, businesses relied on leased lines such as integrated services digital network (ISDN) to connect between multiple offices located in different geographical areas.  However, such leased lines which are provided by telecommunication companies are considered to be expensive and slow

Use of VPN makes it easy for businesses to be run from different locations or share information between different offices or branches fast without risk of the information leaking to outsiders or competitors. It has also proven to be of much help to travelers who would like to access their home network while away from home.

Types of VPNs

Network administrators have a wide range of VPNs to choose from for a business or home use. The two main types of VPNs are:

  • Remote access VPN

Remote access is mostly used for personal use. These type of VPNs helps businesses and individual to access private network to a secure remote server. Most commercial VPNs belong to this class and helps to hide the identity of their subscribers from local networks. This helps the subscribers to surf the internet in private, keeping their data and information safe from snoopers and hackers. It also enables access to information and website regulated to local networks

  • Site-to-Site VPN

Site-to-site VPN is mostly used by big business organizations with operations in different geographical locations. This type of VPN is intended to be used by multiple users in different locations to share resources safely. For example, a company in the USA can securely communicate with their employees in UK offices safely with the help of site-to-site VPN

Other types of VPNs in the market are:

  • Mobile VPN
  • Hardware VPN
  • VPN appliance

Different types of VPN are based on different VPN security protocol. Different VPN protocols offer different levels of security and features. Some of the different VPN protocols are:

  • Transport layer security (TLS) and Secure Sockets layer(SSL)

TLS and SSL are mostly used by service providers and online shopping websites where the browser is a client and thus can only be allowed to access specific information and not the entire website

  • Secure shell (SSH)

Helps to transfer encrypted data from a local server to a local server via an encrypted tunnel

  • OpenVPN

This is an open-source VPN that is mostly used to create site-to-site and point-to-point connections. Its security protocol is based on TLS and SSL protocol

  • Internet protocol security (IPsec)

IPsec helps to protect data being transferred between two networks.

  • Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)

PPTP is the most popular tunnelling protocol. It uses a point-to-point protocol to secure the data. It is supported by Mac, Linux and Windows.

  • Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)

L2TP usually works with a combination of other protocol to create a stronger VPN connection. Its id mostly combined with IPsec to encrypt the data and create a communication tunnel.

How do VPNs Work?

Most VPNs in the market are compatible with almost all devices that use networks such as Computer, laptop, tablets and smartphones. When the devices are connected to a VPN, a P2P connection is created that helps to change the device IP address to that one of the VPN servers. This enables you to access the local network services and resources from different geographical locations, use the public network without the worry of losing your information and data and enjoy the services of censored websites in countries with strict regulations such as the use of WhatsApp and Skype in the Middle East and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in China

Uses of VPN

VPNs are mostly used to create a secure connection to hide the identity and IP address of an individual. Other ways in which VPNs are used are:

  • Download files

Many people make use of VPNs to download files, especially in cases where the ISP is throttling and making internet slow. This helps to increase the connection speed and thus download the files fast.

  • Used of VPN helps in accessing Geo- blocked websites.

By the help of a VPN, it is easy and possible to access websites which have Geo-restrictions such as Netflix and Hulu anywhere as long as you have access to the VPN server which.

  • Helps to hide browsing activity and IP address
  • Allows access to the home network while at work or travelling
  • Provides access to office network while at home or travelling

Factors to consider when choosing a VPN

With increased cases of data and information loss or leak caused by hackers and snoopers. It is always safe to ensure that you have a VPN to enjoy privacy and protection online. When deciding on the service provider. Some of the factors to consider are:

  • Subscription charges and deals
  • Location and number of servers
  • Customer support availability
  • Connection speed

Number of devices that one can connect simultaneously with one subscription

Disadvantages of using VPNs

Some of the challenges of using VPN include:

  • High subscription charges
  • Tends to slow connection speed

Conclusion

From time immemorial, people, organizations and governments have had deep secrets and confidential matters, and discussions always kept between the parties involved. Use of internet could have threatened this thanks to the invention of VPNs which came to provide the so much needed privacy online. Though not considered as a significant invention compared to the internet, use of the internet could be a threat to many and could not mean anything if it can’t be relied upon to transfer and access information.

VPNs make this possible by encrypting information and creating a safe tunnel between the server and user’s devices, thus ensuring privacy. VPNs also allows fast downloading of files, access to censored websites, and accessing home and work network while travelling. 

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