Technology / Networking

VPN Types, Options, and Protocols: Explained

VPN Types, Options, and Protocols: Explained
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Published on September 29, 2022

How do you connect remote business locations to your core network? How do you let employees access sensitive resources outside of your organization? I’ll give you a hint. You need to create a private network between those remote sites or employees and the core network. 

Of course, this private network needs to run over the public internet. You can’t run a cable between distant sites. At least not feasibly. So, this private network needs to be virtualized. 

What was your guess? Was it a VPN or a ‘virtual private network?’ If so, you guessed right! 

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you want to learn more about VPNs. So, today we will discuss the two primary types of VPNs, what they are used for, and a brief overview of the protocols those VPNs use. Let’s get into it!

An Overview of VPNs, Options, and Protocols

In this video, CBT Nuggets trainer Keith Barker explains what types of VPNs are commonly used in an enterprise environment, what a site-to-site VPN is, why it differs from a remote access VPN, and what protocols VPNs use. 

VPN Types, Options, and Protocols: Explained

In the enterprise world, there are two primary types of VPNs. We have site-to-site VPNs and remote access VPNs. Most of you may already be familiar with remote access VPNs if you’ve used products like Proton or Nord VPN. They work a tad different in the enterprise world, however. So, let’s discuss each. 

What is a Site-to-Site VPN?

A site-to-site VPN is commonly used to connect two remote locations. For example, you might need to connect the headquarters of a business and one of its remote satellite locations together. This makes the satellite location think that it’s connected to the core network at the headquarters location. Why would we use a site-to-site VPN?

Let’s say that all of your accountants work in New York, but your firm is located in California. You aren’t willing to re-locate the accountants or find new employees because New York has the best accountants. The financial data for the business must be stored in California at the headquarters, however. Accountants can’t keep transferring files back and forth through Google Drive; that’s insecure and also a pain. So, a site-to-site VPN is created so those accountants in New York can access financial data in California directly. 

This site-to-site VPN is created between the two firewalls at each location. Traffic is encrypted and secured between both firewalls with the IPSec protocol. 

What is a Remote Access VPN?

If a user goes on vacation, how do you make sure they can keep working? Though employees should never be forced to work on vacation, they'll need to use a VPN on the off chance they want to. In this case, they specifically require a remote access VPN. 

A remote-access VPN lets individuals gain access to a business network to access internal resources. Let’s revisit our accountant example. Accountants love doing math. They can’t get enough of it. So it would seem reasonable that an accountant might want to do some math problems while on vacation. Because they are on vacation, they can’t access financial data from the office. In this case, that accountant will need to use a remote-access VPN to access financial data while they’re drinking Mai Thais on the beach. 

We can let that accountant use one of two types of remote-access VPNs.

The first type is portal-based. Otherwise, the accountant will access financial data through a web page. This portal uses SSL and TLS to secure that VPN connection. Portals are a pain to use, however. It limits what kind of resources can be used or interacted with.

It’s more common for employees to use an application to create that secure VPN tunnel. If you watch a lot of YouTube videos, you might be familiar with Nord or Proton VPN. These VPN services are similar. They use an application to create a secure tunnel to a remote server, using either SSL & TLS or IPSec. 

The difference is that Nord or Proton VPN redirects your internet traffic from their server to the outside world without access to the internal network at either company. An enterprise VPN lets employees access internal business resources as if they were directly connected to the business network. 

Want to Learn More About VPNs?

In this article, we learned what a site-to-site VPN and remote access VPN are and what they are used for. However, wouldn’t it be nice to understand how to create these types of VPNs? If so, you might be interested in taking a Fortigate firewall networking online training course


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