Network Security: How Virtual Private Networks Work

The purpose of a virtual private network is to provide a way for business workers to communicate securely among branch offices, other business personnel, and people who work remotely. Although a virtual private network uses a public medium like the Internet for telecommunications, it is capable of using the shared infrastructure while maintaining privacy through security procedures.

Generally a virtual private network is secured through a gateway that manages all of the connections to the network. The gateway can exist right on the server or it can be installed as a separate device. In addition to the gateway, other security measures are used such as a firewall and intrusion detection system.

How Virtual Private Networks Work

Although the mission of virtual private networks is to secure communication over the Internet, the way it works will vary depending upon the type of protocol that is installed.

There are several different types of protocol that make up a virtual private network. The protocol is configured from an IPsec which is basically a device that creates a protected connection between two points. It is the manner in which the connection is configured that determines the security protocol.

For example, an IPsec could be established for the purpose of linking the main branch of a company with a secondary branch in which case the IPsec would also include a security configuration for remote workers such as telecommuters and mobile workers. The IPsec configuration would allow these workers to access the network over the Internet except in a secured environment.

IPsec also supports other security services that are used by the enterprise by installing encryption software on the devices of workers who need access to the network to conduct business. The software allows the secure connection to be created through a remote device and the enterprise network.

In addition to IPsec, many enterprises use an SSL encryption for transmitting data securely over the network. The SSL allows workers to access the network resources with any browser that supports SSL. The advantage of this is there is no need for special software installation which would also require periodic updates.

Advantage of a Virtual Private Network

In addition to the need for secure access, companies use a virtual private network because it is a cost effective alternative to building a secure network. This is due to the fact that virtual private networks utilize Internet infrastructure for telecommunications and allow for access by remote users and telecommuters.

Virtual private networks cost generally begin at $12,000 for large enterprises and can cost as little as $800 for a smaller enterprise. This is rather cost effective when you add up the costs of establishing a secure network from the ground up. Virtual private networks have also come of age in terms of new security innovations and ease of manageability by IT administrators, and more companies are employing this option to ensure secure access and transfer of data.

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