What is a corporate VPN?

Data traveling inside a tunnel
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Maintaining a high level of security in today’s connected world is something that concerns us all. Even more so if you’re running a business or corporation, with the needs of employees and IT departments to consider in equal measure.

Thankfully, the advent of the VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a way of creating an encrypted connection between a server and a device for a user, more properly known as a client. This method of securing the connecting between server and client has been the default option for many businesses for some time now, though there are some subtle differences between VPNs used by individuals and the corporate world.

VPN variants

Unlike a personal version however, a corporate or business VPN is designed to provide security for the entire business. That means covering the connectivity needs of corporate servers, which need to have their data protected, as well as the workers that require access to the network. This can also cover employees working at various locations, perhaps remotely, as well as those making use of a hybrid work arrangement.

VPNs can basically be divided into two different types. The first type is a personal VPN. This is when an individual subscribes to a service, which then provides the software that can create the encrypted connection. A personal VPN is typically used to provide anonymity and privacy for an individual when they’re online. Options for VPNs of this type are many and varied, but generally come as plans that can protect single users or multiple people and devices in a domestic household scenario.

The second type of VPN is a corporate VPN. Most businesses have internal networks, often with servers that provide multiple users with access to systems, applications and everyday workflow tools. This arrangement is provided by the company so that work can be done, allowing access to resources such as databases and software. In many cases, this is hosted on the internal company network. This quite commonly also includes access to a corporate email account.

Corporate VPN security and remote access

Business owners are therefore faced with the common challenge of being able to allow external access to internal company networks, while also maintaining a high level of security. The other issue is preventing company data from being hacked as it travels to and from a company infrastructure.

There is a solution though thanks to a type of corporate setup called Remote Access VPN, which can support this activity. It’s especially suited to remote workers who require access to a company network no matter where they happen to be located. With more and more employees enjoying the benefits of a hybrid working environment, using a Remote Access VPN makes more sense than ever.

Multiple locations

Similar challenges also apply to larger businesses with multiple offices, only on a much grander scale. Major corporations need to maintain constant communications between many different locations and, frequently, keep contact with thousands of employees too. These additional places of work can range from a satellite location just up the block, or another campus situated in another country on the other side of the planet. The corporate VPN that can be applied to this multiple location situation is known as a site-to-site VPN.

Pushing this even further has been the recent drive for supporting remote workers. This allows all employees, even those working remotely, to have access to the same identical corporate resources. This frequently includes being able to use common workflow tools such as corporate instant messaging, along with status apps to show employee availability. The corporate VPN enables all of these tools to be used safely, while avoiding man-in-the-middle attacks.

Usability and management of corporate VPNs

IT departments have much more flexibility at their disposal when it comes to using a corporate VPN setup. The system can be configured so that each employee gains access to the network with their own unique login credentials.

However, in order to have a higher level of security than the simple login credentials that a username and password provide, a two-factor approach is frequently used with a security token. These tokens can be a physical token, or a software token such as a smartphone app. This is a much more safe and secure way of working and is especially useful for corporations that have a lot of employees, all working from a multitude of different locations.

Unlike a personal VPN, which centres on privacy, a corporate VPN is setup with an administrator at the helm. This ‘Superuser’ can then have control over who has access to the network. This has obvious benefits when it comes to online security but, adding to the appeal for IT departments, is the way that the administrator can access the logs of the users online in order to track and monitor activity.

Knowing the differences between your VPN options is crucial for deciding which one to use. While the best VPN for personal and small business use might be fine for single users, or companies with a handful of employees, it’s the power of the corporate VPN that needs to be looked at if want to successfully protect the data of an organisation. From growing start-ups through to long-established companies; all stand to benefit by arming themselves with the best corporate VPN they can afford.

Protect your online privacy with the best VPN services.

Jonas P. DeMuro

Jonas P. DeMuro is a freelance reviewer covering wireless networking hardware.

With contributions from