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What is corporate VPN?

corporate VPN in an office
(Image credit: Pixabay)

In today’s connected world, maintaining a high level of security is a concern. A VPN, also known as a Virtual Private Network, is a way to create an encrypted connection between a server, and device for a user, more properly known as a client. 

They can be divided broadly into two different types. The first type is a personal VPN. This is when an individual subscribes to a service, that 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 online, with plans able to protect only a single user or multiple people and devices in a household.

The second type of VPN is a corporate VPN. Businesses have internal networks, often with servers that multiple users have access to. This is provided by the company so work can be done, allowing for access to resources such as databases and software, hosted on the internal company network. This quite commonly also includes access to a corporate email account. Unlike a personal version, a corporate or business VPN is designed to provide security to the entire business - both the corporate servers that need protection of their data, and the workers that need to access the network, both while on campus and off.

Corporate VPN security and remote access

A common challenge then becomes how to allow outside access to this internal company network, while maintaining the security of the company network. In addition, preventing the data being transmitted back and forth to a remote location from being hacked while en route is another challenge. The type of corporate VPN that can support this type of activity for a remote worker accessing the company network is called a Remote Access VPN.

Similar challenges also apply to larger businesses with multiple offices, that need to remain in constant communication between each other. These additional campuses 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 workers, even those remotely, to have access to the identical resources. This includes such work tools as corporate instant messaging, and status apps to show availability. The corporate VPN can allow these tools to be used safely, while avoiding man-in-the-middle attacks.

Usability and management of corporate VPNs

A corporate VPN gets configured so each employee logs into the network with login credentials. 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 often used with a security token. These tokens can be a physical token, or a software token such as a smartphone app.

Unlike a personal VPN which centers on privacy, a corporate VPN is setup with an administrator. This ‘Superuser’ can then have control over who has access to the network, and can access the log of what the users are doing online.

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Jonas P. DeMuro

Dr. Jonas P. DeMuro graduated summa cum laude from St. John's University with a Bachelor's of Science in Biological Sciences, and a minor in the Philosophy of Science. He went on to receive his Doctorate in Medicine from the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. He has authored and coauthored numerous academic publications related to Surgery, Trauma, and Critical Care. When not leading the charge in the global pandemic, he has written for a number of notable publications, including TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Hardware, ITProPortal, Maximum PC, Top Ten Reviews and PC Gamer among others. He gets a kick out of seeing his work quoted and linked to in computing academic circles, as he recalls fondly that his last formal class on computing was in high school using the BASIC software language on a TRS-80 platform. How things have progressed!