A VPN or a Virtual Private Network is the virtual version of a physical web of computers. What a VPN does is, it extends a private network over a public one, such as the internet, making it easier and more secure for remote computers connected through it to share files and other resources. It enables the computers to function as though they were actually connected to other computers (and even printers and other office resources) on the network.
In this regard, a VPN is quite similar to a Wide Area Network or WAN. However, in general, computers connect on a VPN through encrypted tunnels, making the sharing of such files and other resources much more secure.
Marissa Mayer famously used Yahoo’s VPN to monitor the work habits of her employees. And unsurprisingly, today the VPN is widely used by corporates – not necessarily for espionage – allowing their employees to access the office intranet; to connect and share resources, often including screenshots, while on the go. The company’s VPN also serves the other purpose of securing its virtual corporate assets and their transfer by and between employees. It is also a great idea for multinational companies with offices in disparate geographical locations as it helps them to link them in a cohesive virtual network.
However, VPNs are much more than just virtual pipelines connecting remote employees to their office servers. They are also very effective for tying together remote networks securely.
They are also great tools to protect online privacy, and you can easily set up a VPN to securely access your home network while away from home. It also works as smart and simple instruments to protect your online privacy from snoopers when you’re on a public Wi-Fi network, such as a in a hotel or coffee shop, since the VPN will encrypt your internet traffic.
Another interesting, if less frequently used, benefit of the VPN is geoblocking. VPNs are often used to circumvent state-sponsored censorships but you can also use them for other entertainment purposes such as accessing a particular VPN (such as British or American) even when you’re outside the country.
Another thing that makes VPNs great options for home users and corporates alike is that they’re cost-effective. So setting up a VPN is a smart option for anybody. And if you’re considering setting up your own, you only really need to worry about picking one of the four most popular protocols – PPTP, L2TP and IPSec, SSL or the OpenVPN.