What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
The technology that permits computers to interconnect with each other, otherwise known as a computer network, has greatly expanded since its beginnings. In the early days, cables that seemed to go for miles in any given direction connected computers. Then the personal computer (PC) was invented and many computer networks were shortened due to the smaller scale of the hardware. Mainframes then became designated to service larger scale computing tasks, while giving way to the smaller PC, which was better, suited to office environments. While a detailed analysis of the many aspects of computer networks is beyond the scope of this brief article, it is important to remember that the technology has come a long way in a short time.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a type of computer network. One of the things that make it such a notable technology is that a VPN forms a “private” network via a very public internet connection. This network may also form the basis of an intranet as well. This function allows for the same connection to be used in many ways across an organizational infrastructure, depending on the available network bandwidth.
A VPN can serve any function that any other network can. It allows for the sharing of data, and other resources such as printers, databases, etc. The users can also connect to the Internet in accordance to the normal security settings of the network. Aside from the technology involved, there is essentially little difference between a VPN and most any other type of computer network.
One of the methods that a VPN uses as a security feature is authentication. What happens here is that the signal at the endpoints of the VPN must authenticate before access is granted. While an in-depth discussion of this feature will be included in another article, it is briefly mentioned here to highlight the added security feature included in a VPN.