What is a VPN?

As businesses grow, they tend to go through different phases. Whether it’s an entrepreneur’s first employee or a company’s first branch office, growth present challenges as well as opportunities, and these challenges often have a far-reaching impact on a company’s IT infrastructure. New employees need email addresses, usernames and passwords, while new business sites require setting up new networks, and connecting them with your existing systems. If your company is beginning to grow beyond its central location, with either remote users or branch offices needing access to your central network, then you could need to set up a VPN.

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A VPN is a virtual private network, a system that uses the internet to connect a central network to a user in a remote geographical location. This is not only useful for companies with offices in multiple countries, but also for businesses that need to provide remote workers with controlled access to in-house systems. A VPN offers considerable security benefits, as it uses tunnelling protocols and encryption to keep your IT resources safe from unwanted visitors. VPNs can be used to connect a branch office to company head office, or to connect two similar networks through a dissimilar middle network.

VPNs come in two different types, known as site-to-site or remote access. A site-to-site VPN interconnects two or more separate networks, usually at two different geographical locations. It can offer businesses considerable cost savings, as it can remove the necessity for a dedicated lease line between your networks by connecting them using existing infrastructures, while increasing security at the same time. By comparison, a remote-access VPN allows remote users to connect to your central network, which is excellent for salesmen who need intranet access when they aren’t in the office. Access is controlled by the use of authentication and encryption techniques, which prevent the disclosure of sensitive information to any unauthorised parties present on the VPN’s host network. Using a remote-access VPN, off-site users can access files, printers, databases and intranet facilities, allowing them to utilise all the IT resources available to on-site users. A remote-access VPN can greatly enhance the capabilities of off-site workers, which can substantially improve operational efficiency when employees are not in the office.

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