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According to the Cambridge Business English Dictionary ©, a virtual private network is “a system for employees in different places to use its organisation's private network over the internet”.

Addressing a variety of business needs:

VPNs may be constructed to address any number of specific business needs or technical requirements. A comprehensive VPN solution provides support for:

  • Dial-in access
  • Multiple remote sites connected by leased lines (or other dedicated means)
  • The hosting of various services for the VPN customers (e.g. web hosting)
  • Intra and inter-VPN connectivity, (including connectivity to the global Internet)
A VPN is able to supply network connectivity over short and long physical distances and is a form of wide area network.

The beauty of a VPN is that it enables the sharing of files, video conferencing and similar network services and often does so more efficiently and more cost effectively than alternative mechanisms.

A key feature of a VPN is its ability to work over both private networks, as well as public networks, like the internet. Using a method called tunnelling; a VPN uses the same hardware infrastructure as existing internet or intranet links. The protection of the virtual private connection is ensured through the implementation of various security mechanisms.

Modes of use:

A VPN supports at least three different modes of use:

  • Internet remote access client connections
  • LAN-to-LAN internetworking
  • Controlled access within an intranet

Internet VPNs for Remote Client Access

We work in increasingly dynamic environments, where remote access to important information is critical to organisational success. Whether your employees are telecommuting, travelling more frequently, or your consultants are working offsite at any number of clients, they need remote access to get their job done.

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A VPN can be set up to support remote, protected access to the corporate home offices over the internet. An internet VPN solution uses a client / server design and works as follows:

  • A remote host (client) wanting to log into the company network first connects to any public internet service provider (ISP)
  • Next, the host initiates a VPN connection to the company VPN server. This connection is made via a VPN client installed on the remote host
  • Once the security protocols have been satisfied, the connection is established and the remote user is able to access company systems over the internet in the same manner they would when onsite
Before VPNs, remote workers accessed company networks over private leased lines or through dialup remote access servers. Although VPN clients do require installation of both hardware and software, an internet VPN is a superior solution in many instances.

VPNs for Internetworking:

Besides using virtual private networks for remote access, a VPN can also bridge two networks together. In this mode of operation, an entire remote network (rather than just a single remote client) can join to a different company network to form an extended intranet. This solution uses a VPN server to VPN server connection.

Intranet / Local Network VPNs:

Internal networks may also utilise VPN technology to implement controlled access to individual subnets within a private network. In this mode of operation, VPN clients connect to a VPN server that acts as the network gateway. This type of VPN use does not involve an internet service provider (ISP) or public network cabling. However, it allows the security benefits of VPN to be deployed inside an organisation. This approach has become especially popular as a way for businesses to protect their Wi-Fi local networks.