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A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure connection over the public internet that uses encryption and tunneling technologies to create a tunnel between two hosts, such as between your corporate network and a remote personal computer used by a teleworker from home or in the field.

There are two general types of VPNs:

Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) VPNs: Establishes an encrypted network connection between the organization's network and a teleworker's computer, and requires client software to be running on the remote computer.

Secure Socket layer (SSL) VPN: Establishes an encrypted network connection to select web-based applications, and does not require client software.

VPNs are implemented to give remote users and sites (branch office), secure access to applications and resources on the organization's network. An organization may consider implementing a VPN if there are teleworkers that need remote access to files, data and/or applications on the corporate network. If teleworkers are handling confidential information over your network, ensure that strong encryption and authentication methods are implemented. Consider mobile VPNs for field workers and employees that handle confidential information from varied locations, such as when traveling.

Seek outside consulting support if the organization does not have network security expertise in-house.

VPNs offer significant cost savings over a traditional leased line wide-area network (WAN):

  • Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) VPNs - Gives teleworkers full, secure access to applications and data on the corporate network.
  • Secure Socket layer (SSL) VPN - Doesn't require client software; allows connection to applications via the web and auto initiation of sessions if terminated; and gives system administrators improved access control as tunnels are only provided for specific applications.

Challenges involved with VPN include:

  • The implementation of a VPN requires a deep understanding of network security to ensure accurate installation and configuration protects private traffic as it travels over the public internet.
  • IPSec VPNs - Requires client software, which can be expensive and hard to install, configure, and upgrade on remote computers.
  • SSL VPNs - Only allows secure access to applications that are web-based and may prevent secure access to network resources, such as printers, or to centralized storage and servers for file sharing or file backups.

Look for firewalls and routers that have VPN capabilities. You will need a VPN access concentrator if there are multiple remote users accessing the network.

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VPNs Hang Tough

Guide to SSL VPN

SSL versus IPSec - choosing your VPN

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This page was last updated on May 6, 2009