Today we’re going back to basics in understanding VPNs. We’ll unpack just what a VPN is and how it’s implemented. Then we’ll look at how a VPN can give you all the mobility of the Cloud with the full control and security of you own, in-house server and data storage.
What Is a VPN?
VPN means Virtual Private Network and it allows your computer to access your private office network over a public network.
So, take for example your home office. With a VPN and your local Internet connection, your home computer could be part of your office network. Similarly, if your favorite coffee shop has public Wi-Fi, you can use a VPN to make your laptop part of the office network. Not only that but if you have offices in different locations, you can use a VPN to join them all together into one network. And believe it or not, by using a VPN, your data is totally secure, even if you’re using public Wi-Fi.
This is accomplished by creating an encrypted data tunnel from one network – home office, coffee shop, remote office – to another – main office. A tunnel is a type of data protocol that creates a secure, encrypted stream of data from one point to another. So, no matter where you are, it’ll be just like your computer is sitting on a desk in the office.
This isn’t only about file sharing either, although access to files on the office network is a major use for VPNs. If you have accounting software, customer management software or computer aided dispatch that access a database server, then the VPN gives you that access. Just like you were at the office.
What about the Cloud?
One of the big pitches for Cloud services is mobility. Cloud service providers brag about how you can use their service from anywhere, so you're probably wondering, “Why bother with a VPN when we can just use the Cloud?” That’s a good question, and the truth is, a Cloud services might be the best fit for your needs, but here are some things you should consider:
- Security – Many Cloud-based services, file sharing, for example, provide inadequate security protection. Both in the transmission of the files and the storage of the files. Security measures can be taken, but if you’re not familiar what protections are in place, you’ll need to consult an expert.
- Accessibility – You will only be able to access data in the Cloud if you have Internet access. That means if there’s a regional or local Internet outage you won’t be able to access the data. You can’t drive to the Cloud in an emergency, but you can drive to your main office.
- Speed – Your access to any Cloud-based service will always be limited by your Internet speed. This can be a critical factor to consider because if you store your data on a local network, you always have the ability to physically visit that network and get full-speed access. If it’s all in the Cloud, your access will always be limited.
- Limitations – Most Cloud-based services do one or two things. They share files, or provide accounting tools or customer management tools, which means you have different companies you’re buying different services from. Now, it’s true that your local network will have different applications that do different things, but they’re all going to be centralized on your network.
- Where is the data? – If you use a Cloud service, you can never be sure exactly where the data is, which can lead to questions concerning privacy and integrity. What if the company changes its policy and allows third party access? Or begins showing relaxed security practices? Where do you go to get that data? How do you remove it from their data center? When you use your own server, you know where it is, who can access it and how to delete it.
What about Remote Desktop?
Another common way people access their network when they are mobile is with Remote Desktop. Remote Desktop has a few things to consider:
- Security – Once your local network environment allows Remote Desktop connection, it opens a whole new spectrum of attacks. A VPN creates a tunnel, so it’s not open to the world.
- Speed – With Remote Desktop, you’re not using your local computing power, you’re using the remote computer’s power and streaming the visual data over the Internet. In some circumstances, this can actually be much faster, but in most office productivity scenarios, it’s much, much slower than moving the actual data over a VPN and using your computer’s power.
Getting your VPN up and running
Here at Advantage Technology we have experts that can install the hardware and software necessary to get your VPN up and running. We typically install a SonicWALL, which is a Unified Threat Management appliance that does much, much more than just VPNs. From there, it’s just a matter of configuring the remote computers.
If you don’t currently have a SonicWALL and all of this sounds interesting to you, then now is the time to go ahead and pull the trigger on that. If you’re just looking for more information, you can request to Talk to An Expert about networking, and we’ll make sure someone gets back to you ASAP.