A Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short, is a tunneling system. It provides for a private network of dedicated servers having secure, encrypted data transfer capabilities, over a public network. The beginnings of this revolutionary technology date back to 1996 when Microsoft’s Gurdeep Singh-Pall created PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol). Though PPTP is now obsolete, VPN is still going strong with 25 percent of the global population using it.
VPN – From Then to Now
The growing popularity of VPN is obvious as it is now used for several other reasons apart from what it was originally intended for. Yes, the original target users of VPNs were big businesses concerned about the security of their sensitive data. This interception-protected infrastructure of dedicated servers enables remotely-located employees to access company files without worrying about unauthorized users stealing confidential information. The connectivity makes employees working from various locations feel as though they are communicating within the same building and over a local area network.
Today VPNs are used to overcome geo-restrictions, be anonymous while accessing the internet, and to stay locked away from hackers.
Why a VPN is a Good Idea
If you don’t already use a VPN in your big or SMB business, here are 5 key reasons why you should:
#1. Increased Security
As already indicated in the previous paragraph, a VPN provides for heightened security. For all computers connected to a private enterprise company network, data encryption of all network traffic enables private activity to stay that way – private. If for instance, yours is a major company which has branches in multiple cities. You can have peace of mind knowing you’ve geographically spread out employees have access to company files, without compromising on privacy. If you are a business traveler, such a system makes it possible to easily access official information from your laptop. So is the case if you’re a telecommuter.
The VPN user is typically required to go through a process of authentication, whether a password or other form of identification.
Your client may or may not comprehend what a VPN is but if they’re made aware of the benefits, they would surely have less of a concern about sharing data with you.
Having a VPN service allows you to hide your real IP address. Your original IP address is replaced by a new one. So potential hackers are unable to track your fingerprint or know where you are connecting from.
#3. Can Triumph Over Country-Specific Access Restrictions
If your business operations involve employees making frequent trips abroad, you may have heard of situations (or come across them yourself) where access to certain corporate resources or to a specific service or website is blocked in a particular country. China is a possible example. Fortunately, if your business uses a VPN and your service runs in the country you’re traveling to, you should be able to access the material that would otherwise be blocked to you.
To explain, if for example you are from the U.S and traveling to China. A VPN will enable you to trick anyone in China into believing you are accessing the content from the U.S. When in reality, you are actually accessing it from China. This is possible because of the substitution of the Chinese or local IP with one from the U.S.
The benefit of geo-independence which VPN offers a mean greater scope for expanding your business at the international level.
#4. Financially Viable
A Virtual Private Network is an IT investment worth making even if yours is an SMB. Because, it is unlikely to burn a hole in your company finances. There are a number of VPN services that fall around the $10 range. You get in return is encryption of data traffic comparable to that associated with sensitive military data, secure access to the internet, and safe authentication.
An SMB or startup may be able to afford or require only fundamental VPN services. However, the good news is the majority of VPN software offerings can be scaled up to suit the increasing requirements of the business as it grows.
On the Flip Side
Every invention comes with its cons and so does a Virtual Private Network.
#1. Slow Speed
To ensure data encryption while you’re logged onto the private network, a VPN must work hard and this can cause your connection to slow down. Distance is a contributing factor. The further away the VPN provider is situated away from the user, the more the speed is compromised.
By comparing the plans of a different VPN service provider, you can find one that offers a fairly good speed without taking anything away from the security guarantee.
#2. Possibility for Connection Drops
The more reliable or competent VPN service provider, the less is the possibility of this happening. A drop in connection can be problematic as it means a drop in your anonymity. It means people can see your real IP address. Check with your VPN service provider if they provide a KillSwitch. It is a feature that will temporarily cut you off from the internet should the connection drop.
Choose with Prudence
When choosing a service provider, also ideally think along the lines of a free VPN trial, the more servers they have across the globe, the better; and the availability of applications that are compatible with many operating systems.