A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a private encrypted tunnel created through the internet between two points. It allows secure communication between two offices or devices. It is one of the earliest forms of remote access and still in use today. VPNs can be combined with other remote technologies to deliver added functionality.
Site-to-site VPN network
Site-to-site VPN connects two or more locations, such as two or more remote offices, into a single unified network segment. It delivers the capability for users on each network to communicate through a secure channel with each other. This is typically invisible to the users of the VPN since it is an equipment to equipment connection.
Remote access VPN (Client based VPN)
In this blog, we are going to focus on Client based VPNs as it is the most appropriate VPN use to connect to the office network from a home or remote computer.
- The user installs a VPN client software package to connect the remote office. Often, they will use their domain user name and password to authenticate the connection. We strongly recommend enabling 2FA (two factor authentication) to strengthen the authentication.
- The VPN client software will vary with the type of technology and product used by the company. Some firms use special client software to connect to the VPN. Some of the popular VPN clients are FortiGate, NetExtender, and Cisco Open Connect.
- Windows 10 and all other Windows operating system come with a default VPN client that you can use to connect to the office. MAC OS also provides a built-in VPN client.
VPN Clients are available on mobile phones as well for you to connect to your office resources from anywhere in the world.
There are several different types of VPN Protocols. We will not get into detail on all types but instead will focus on the most commonly used protocols. Each of these VPN protocols provide various features and different levels of security:
- Point–to–Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
- Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)
- Internet Protocol Security (IPSec)
- Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS)
Out of these, the most commonly used VPN type in is the SSL VPN. Most third-party VPN clients support SSL VPN.
The main advantage of VPNs is that a user can access the company’s resources such as databases, printers, files/folders, and intranet websites securely without much effort.
Some other benefits include:
- High level of security
- Readily available
- Allows remote printing and file transfers
- Can use with Macs and tablets and Mobile Phones
- Can be combined with other technologies
Some disadvantages of VPNs include:
- Malware and virus threat increases since remote unmanaged PCs are granted full access to the firm network
- Usually blocked by hotels so it won’t work there
- Poor performance over slow connections
- Inability to manage the connection; the slightest network disturbance can cause loss of work.
VPN technology has become essential during the lock down induced by COVID-19. Since VPN’s can be implemented relatively quickly. Once again, we recommend that two factor authentication be used for any remote connection, including VPNs.
If your firm is challenged with remote access, contact us for advice. Leave a message at 647.426.1004 x 450 and we will call you back.
Indika Ekanayake is the Lead Consultant at Triella. We are a technology consulting company specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium-sized firms. Indika can be reached at 647.426.1004. For additional articles, go to our blog page. Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Webroot Reseller.
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