VP What? Neil Cumins explains what a VPN is and why you might need one…
The computing industry is littered with abbreviations and acronyms. The abbreviations.com website lists over 33,000 separate IT-based contractions, of which VPN is one of the better-known examples. It certainly shouldn’t be confused with VPA, VPD, VPL or either of the two completely unrelated VPI acronyms. Or with VPT. Or VPU, for that matter.
A Virtual Private Network effectively transmits private communications using the Internet as a channel. Rather than physically connecting two computers in an office with a hardwired cable, a VPN will route correspondence between these devices across a public network. Although this may seem to contradict the definition of “private” suggested by the title, VPNs retain high levels of data security. The integrity and functionality of the private network is maintained, but the interconnected devices can be in any number of disparate locations.
Back in the dark ages of dial-up internet, VPNs were often unreliable because of the drop-outs and sluggish upload speeds of the era’s technology. It took the arrival of DSL and fibre-optic broadband to bring IP-based VPNs to the fore. Today, there are two forms of VPN service, aimed at consumers and companies respectively. The service you require depends largely on the size, frequency and the nature of any network requests that will be made.
Information is sent through VPNs in an encrypted format that prevents hackers being able to view any of the contents. Data can only be accessed by people with the appropriate authentication credentials, although the well-publicised spate of recent password thefts is threatening to undermine public confidence in this time-honoured process. Two-step verification may offer a safer future for packet transfer – such as when you log into an account and then have to enter a unique code that’s been sent to your mobile phone. Banks are enthusiastically championing two-step verification, regularly employing passcodes and card readers.
Arguably, the single biggest benefit of a VPN is that users don’t have to be in one fixed location to access the network. Logging into your company’s intranet from home is a perfect example of using a VPN through public networks, as is a company-wide intranet shared between offices in different locations. With the correct log-in details, distance is not a barrier to this highly flexible data-carrying network.
Other advantages of VPNs include their scalability, alongside the cost savings of transferring data online rather than through a LAN or WAN. UK2’s own VPN packages can be run on almost any device with an Internet connection, while portable IP addresses ensure continuity of service almost anywhere in the world. The use of IPSec encryption additionally means each and every packet sent or received will be authenticated and encrypted – keeping your personal and corporate communications safe from prying eyes.
To find out about UK2’s own VPN solutions visit the website.