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Virtual Private Network

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A virtual private network (VPN) is a form of communications network. It is used by companies, franchises and organizations to transfer data and information seamlessly. VPN traffic relies on the Internet to function properly and effectively.

The Basics of a Virtual Private Network

Imagine you rented a movie from Blockbuster. Instead of returning it to the original store, you try to return it to one further from your home. When the clerk scans the video into the computer, the data is transferred onto the Blockbuster VPN and comes back saying the video does not belong to that particular store. The flow of information is immediate and alerts the clerk to your mistake before the other store begins to worry their video has gone missing.

Most VPNs need to be secure. Secure VPNs use a type of tunneling protocol called cryptography. It prevents snooping on a network by providing sender authentication and message integrity. The latter ensures that message cannot be tampered with while the former ensures that nobody steals your identity on the network. Securing a VPN is the responsibility of the network administrator and the process usually relies on their ability to implement and use common sense techniques to maintain security.

A firewall exists between an employee workstation and the network itself. This secures the network from both an attack from the employee's side and an attack from the Internet. It also allows for the network administrator to set up permission groups that allow certain access for trusted users. This means that one user may be able to access certain files that another user cannot access.

VPN Protocols for Security

In order to secure a VPN, it is important to implement various protocols specific to a given operation. Protocols enable certain actions to take place on a computer, server or network. In the case of a VPN, a protocol allows for security to be implemented throughout the network.

Common VPN protocols include IP security, secure socket layer (SSL) and point-to-point tunneling (PPTP). IP security helps two computers interact by proving who is behind the monitor before a connection is established. SSL provides data authentication and integrity through the use of a public-key distributed by a particular individual or company. A public-key is a form of identification that anybody can apply for on the Internet. When attached to a message or e-mail, it alerts the sender that you are responsible for the contents of the message. PPTP allows for a multi-protocol secure connection to the Internet for a VPN that wants to rely on a local phone number to connect.

When a VPN is set up properly, it can increase a company's productivity. The largest benefit of a VPN for a company is that it establishes a worldwide presence. Anybody, anywhere, can access the network to conduct business and share information. Since data can be accessed anywhere, this means that transit and transportation costs will be lower. Productivity will increase from the ease of communication between departments, divisions and the company's headquarters.

The Importance of Security

The importance of maintaining the security of a VPN network cannot be stressed enough. In order for an increase of productivity to be visible, an experienced network administrator must be in control at all times to ensure that the system is stable and working for all users. Without a skilled network administrator, the scale of access at a company might present a security problem.

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