A VPN, or virtual private network, allows a user to receive data across public networks but retain the privacy and security of a private network. Many companies that do not use VPNs should consider it. Installing a VPN client to an employee’s machine gives the employee secure access to the company’s server. Not only will it help keep data transfers safe, but it also opens up more areas geographically for the employee to connect to the office.
When an employee leaves the office and accesses the Internet, he is putting everything on his hard drive at risk. Connecting to public networks at the coffee shop, hotel, or book store gives hackers time to invade, destroy, or steal any information on the computer.
If that same computer were connected to a VPN, then the employee would first log into the VPN server. Data packets sent from the client (here, the employee’s computer) to the server are encrypted. Without a VPN, the data packets just travel across the Internet unprotected. With a VPN, the data has an outer shell of protection. A hacker will see the outer shell and get all the wrong information and therefore not gain access to the internal packet with the data.
The traveling businessperson can benefit greatly from a VPN. When the computer connects to the Internet, the IP address of the VPN server, rather than the local IP the computer is connected to, is seen. Each country has specific IP identifiers that help governments restrict access to certain sites and information. By using a VPN to generate a US IP address, the employee can access a site that is otherwise restricted in the country he is currently in.
Lifehacker’s Alan Henry reminds us, “If you want to get around a location restriction and watch live TV in the UK, for example, you want to make sure your VPN service provider has servers in the UK.”
Companies don’t have to pay phone line costs or long distance charges, because the VPN uses the Internet. Also, the company can choose to go through a VPN provider, in many cases paying less than supporting a server on-site. If many employees will access a VPN, then it would be prudent for the employer to have an on-site server and support staff.
The VPN client can also be installed on other mobile devices. If necessary, tablets and smartphones can be connected to the company’s network as well. Regardless of the device connected, remember that the device is not immune to viruses. Downloaded content from anywhere other than the VPN server can be infected.