What is a VPN and Who Needs One?

Before 2020, the word VPN was most likely not something that you heard much. When much of the workforce moved remote during spring of last year, this VPN word became a part of daily life. So what is a VPN...let's break it down. The VPN acronym stands for Virtual Private Network but what does that actually mean?


The virtual part of VPN means just that – There is no connection needed. Imagine a tunnel that is built to virtually connect your devices to your secure office network. The tunneling is achieved by a process known as encapsulation. Basically, while the data your remote user is accessing still travels on the public internet connection, the tunnel that was built hides it from the bad guys. That means, it’s private.


Next, while the tunnel itself offers some level of privacy, more security is the goal. In order for the complete security benefit of a VPN, the data that is traveling from a remote device to your secure network must be encrypted. When a tunnel is built under the ground it is not invisible, right? The public internet can see that a virtual tunnel exists, but encryption – either via SSL (secure sockets layer) or IPSec (internet protocol security) prevents anyone from seeing what’s inside. When encryption is in play, only the user and the network the user is connected to can view the data by using secure passwords.


Finally, the network component rounds out our answer to the question “what is a VPN?” Network in this case means the secure network within your business. It is what all of your devices are connected to while working in the four walls of your office. The VPN connection allows users access to what they need to get work done – all while protected by your existing network security. A VPN in essence extends your network’s reach to wherever your employees need to access it. This past year has shown us that the availability to work remote is crucial.

A little about the author. Applied Integration is a Managed IT Service Provider that works with companies to add to or supplement their IT Departments. Operating in Salt Lake City servicing companies in Utah and nationwide for over 20 years, they specialize in IT Solutions, computer support, IT Management and software support including Microsoft 365, Windows 10 and Spruce POS systems.

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