What is a VPN?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network), uses a public network to connect private networks or remote users and relies on tunnelling to greatly enhance the security of your communications over a network.
Using the example of working from home, your computer and your business’ network server are the two “ends” of the tunnel. At each end, data packets are encrypted and then decrypted using encapsulation. Encapsulation refers to the process of “hiding” one data packet inside of another. Anyone watching the network traffic will only be able to see the exterior data packet.
This seems pretty complicated at first. Let's consider the analogy of ordering a package from Amazon. Amazon's distribution center is one end of the tunnel. Amazon "encrypts" your order by placing it inside a generic Amazon box so that whoever sees the package before it gets delivered to your home doesn't know what's inside. When the box arrives at your doorstep, you "decrypt" it by unboxing your order. VPNs act similarly, but packages are sent over the internet.
How do VPNs work?
Now that working from home is the new norm, the use of VPNs has surged over the past few weeks. We already discussed the possibility of connecting to a company network remotely, but how?
Say your company has two office locations, one in Berlin and another in Toronto (like us at Mercku!). When an employee in Berlin wants to access the company server, located in Toronto, they start by sending it a request. The server then assigns the user a specific IP address which they can use for further communications. The server has a list of IP addresses that can be assigned to authorized users, but how are users verified?
Verification may occur through the input of security credentials or servers may have a predetermined list of approved IP addresses. Once a user is verified, they are granted access and can store or retrieve data from the server remotely.
Today, the use of VPNs has extended beyond allowing employees remote access to servers. They are commonly used to access restricted websites. Restrictions are often based on user location, which is contained in IP addresses. However, VPNs are capable of concealing a user’s true IP address, and through another server, provide an IP address that is associated with another country. This allows users to access geo-blocked content anonymously.
There are two types of VPNs:
Remote Access VPN
A Remote Access VPN allows users to remotely connect to a private network and access the data available in that network. This type of VPN requires authentication protocols and client software, which is included in most operating systems. The connection established is secured with tunnelling protocols.
Site-to-Site VPNs are generally used to extend a company's network to share large amounts of data between multiple office locations. Using our example from earlier, let’s say the Berlin office needs data from the Toronto-based office. A tunnel is formed between the two once there is an agreement on tunnelling and encryption protocols. Once the tunnel is secured against outside breaches, both offices use it to communicate and agree upon a second set of encryption and tunnelling protocols which are used to create a second tunnel within the first. Once this level of security is established, the locations can share data.
There are two types of Site-to-Site VPNs:
- Intranet-based VPNs: Connect separate LANs to a single WAN. This type would be used to share information between multiple business locations.
- Extranet-based VPNs: Connects LANs to create a secure, shared network environment while restricting access to separate intranets. This type of VPN would be used to create a connection for two companies working together so that they are not sharing internal data.
How we can help
Now that we've got all the tech covered, how can Mercku help you while you're working from home? Mercku's M2 Mesh Wi-Fi System allows for VPN passthrough and you can upload your personal VPN server provider's information into the router's settings - all without compromising our unbeatable speeds and coverage!