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Virtual Private Network (VPN) refers to a technology that enables a person to access home or office network securely and remotely over the internet, in such a way that the communication data is protected from hijacking and sniffing by hackers (Cisco Systems, Inc, 2004). As such VPN requires the internet's open distributed infrastructure to transmit data between two or more sites. Something else about VPN is that it supports at least three various modes of use namely; LAN-to-LAN internet working, controlled access in an intranet, and remote access client connections (Cisco Systems, Inc, 2004). However, VPN connections are mostly thought to be either intranet based or internet based, which essentially constitute the main types of VPN (Cisco Systems, Inc, 2004).
At my company
The organization that I work in has for some time now been using a remote access VPN. This security system (remote access VPN) has been implemented through setting up a VPN server or gateway that connects to other branches of the organization. This remote access VPN has been supported by PPTP, IPsec, L2TP, and L2F tunneling protocol.
It is important to note that with Virtual Private networks there is absolutely no person who can track your network outside of the respective networks (Held, 2004). All the activities that you do are secured by a direct link with the virtual private network server. Normally, this particular link that you create with the server will be encrypted; therefore if for some reason a hacker happens to access your virtual private connection, accessing or viewing the data will be impossible solely because the link is already encrypted. The same case applies to your IP address which will also be protected while you are browsing the internet in such a way that it will be hard to determine your location.
Accessing VPN services
A VPN service gives VPN tunneling via a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) which is available either through free services or through paid services (Held, 2004). By just performing a Google search one can access a list of various Virtual Private Network service providers (paid or free) who can provide a person with secure Web browsing. It is important to note that at times accessing certain games and web page request might be impossible primarily due to the quantity of memory that might be required for certain applications. Still, if for any reason your activities involves downloading certain types of files (music files especially) certain restrictions may exist in the execution of these activities (Held, 2004).
Also important to note is the fact that the free virtual private network services are at time not entirely void of ads, although they might be upgraded to a premium account thereby allowing them to be ad-free (Held, 2004). Also important to note is the fact that with virtual private network service, the browsing experience might get slower because of the added layer between you on one side and those websites that you are visiting, and also the traffic restrictions that might be placed on your account which mostly differ depending on the services that your might have chosen.
Users of VPN
Virtual private Networks are normally used by organizations and corporations to accord them security and transmission of data when an employer of either of the two is working in remote location, a task that involves installing a virtual private network that permits users to work securely while using their web browser from such a remote location. Today, other than the organizations and corporations, VPN is also gaining acceptance from private computer users who would like to connect to WiFi in a number of places or in course of their travelling (Cisco Systems, Inc, 2004). Public WiFi networks are also coming up in several places where they are mostly using WiFi networks, however it is important to note that these kinds of networks that are given for public are normally unsecured. This essentially means that any data that might be sent or received over these unsecured networks is exposed to hacking or can be captured by the administrator or the network owner.
Benefits of VPN
With advanced encryption, tunneling, access control, and authentication protocol VPN can be used to offer the highest level of security (Cisco Systems, Inc, 2004). By just creating a private virtual tunnel between ones computer and the providers' computer, and surfing from there, a person VPN account is accorded a layer of security. Another benefit emanating from VPN services is the advantage of surfing internet anonymously or what has come to be known web anonymity (Cisco Systems, Inc, 2004). Through this web anonymity or anonymous web surfing one can conduct sensitive services like online shopping through the use of credit card, sending sensitive information through MSN, Skype, ICQ, among others.
Disadvantages of VPN
The fact that a remote user of the VPN will most definitely use an unsecure asset such as a laptop in accessing the enterprise network means that he or she is perpetually exposed to certain security threat in case his or her device get a virus or any other malicious software.Normally, leased lines or even a dedicated data services give a client (organization) a guaranteed bandwidth in spite of the network's traffic load or the requirement of other competing entities (Held, 2004). However, public network do not offer bandwidth guarantee unless complex resource sharing protocol like MPLS are employed (Pepelnjak, & Guichard, 2002). Ironically, using these protocols in VPN case, always tend to reduce the performance of the data connection's bandwidth (Pepelnjak, & Guichard, 2002). VPN normally uses multiple network, protocol, topologies, service providers, and network hardware equipments to create a single VPN tunnel. At time using several network components may make a network more healthy and robust, however at time it only help in increasing its (network) complexity, and especially if majority of these components were not designed to work together (Pepelnjak, & Guichard, 2002).
Future of VPN
VPN usage seems to be perpetually on the rise. Therefore any organization that wants to have any connection with the outside world will find the solution in VPN. Some of the factors that support the increased usage of VPN now and in future include the fact that they are generally secure and easy to set up (NeoAccel, 2006).