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A Virtual Private Network (I’ll use VPN from now on) is a type of network (usually a WAN) that connects computers and allows them to communicate securely as if they were connected on a private, point to point line. However, the whole point of the V (virtual) in VPN is that you are not actually connecting directly, and you use another medium (usually the internet) to simulate this. VPNs are usually used to share projects, remotely access networks, and share files securely. There are many different implementations of VPNs: I will be looking at some of these now.



Secure Socket Layer VPNs are probably the easiest VPNs to use. They are done within a web browser, so no installing programs or downloading clients is required; all you need is a computer with a web browser to access your VPN.


Point to Point Tunneling Protocol VPNs are the most easily supported type of VPN in Windows as it was developed in part by Microsoft. PPTP initiates the connection through your internet connection, and then relies on the Point to Point Protocol to encrypt the data. PPTP VPNs are usually quite easy to set up, requiring only minimal software.



Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol VPNs are essentially beefier PPTP VPNs. They provide better encryption, and are therefore a bit slower when it comes to sending data. Both PPTP and L2TP operate exclusively on layer 2 level, meaning that they use hardware addresses and physical links instead of routing and other higher level procedures.



Multi-Protocol Label Switching VPNs are VPNs that use lines that can be leased from an ISP that will connect various locations that have access to the ISP. Since MPLS VPNs lease lines from an ISP, it tends to cost more and is generally used for larger VPNs, such as connecting two buildings together. What the “MPLS” means is that the information you send is path oriented: instead of there being a final address attached to the packet of information and having the IP routers find the path to get there for you, a path is attached (called a Label Switched Path ) and it already knows where it is going. This allows for faster, more efficient routing.


Internet Protocol security VPNs use IP traffic to send all packets of data. Since it uses the IP routing, it can be considered a level 3 network. It tends to be a very secure type of VPN, but also a more expensive one.


Here is a chart ranknig some of the key characteristics of these types of VPNs (keep in mind that some of these types perform nearly identically in some of these catergories, so some of the rankings are just arbitrary and will be marked in brackets):


Rank  Cost Versatility  Ease of Setup  Security 
  PPTP (IPsec) PPTP (L2TP)
  (IPsec)  (PPTP) L2TP MPLS
  (L2TP) (L2TP) IPsec PPTP


VPNs are a handy tool when wanting to set up LAN-like networks from across the world. If you would like to set up your own VPN or improve a current one, feel free to contact us.




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