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What Is A Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

May 30, 2008
A virtual private network (VPN) can either be a remote access or site-to-site network - whatever the case, you'll need specific software and hardware to build a VPN. For instance, you may need a desktop software client for each remote user, dedicated hardware (a concentrator or secure PIX firewall), a dedicated server for dial-up, a network access server for use by a service provider for remote users to access VPN, and a network and policy management center.

There is no single way to put together a VPN, which is why most companies come up with a solution for their own needs. Most VPNs, however, make use of Cisco VPN technology simply because it is the most widely used equipment for networking in the world.

So what are some of the hardware components you will need, in addition to VPN software? One component is called a concentrator. This piece of equipment is good for remote access, with encryption and authentication techniques that are quite advanced. With high availability, performance, and scalability, this piece of hardware also includes SEP modules that let you increase capacity and throughput. VPN concentrators sold work in small business situations, as well as in larger businesses, with up to 10,000 remote users.

A VPN optimized router is used for scalability, routing, security, and quality of service. This piece of equipment is usually based on the Cisco IOS VPN software - you can find routers for many different networking needs. Small offices make use of them, as well as larger businesses.

If you're setting up a virtual private network, you're also going to need a secure PIX firewall. A PIX (private Internet exchange) firewall comes with dynamic network address translation, proxy server, packet filtration, firewall and VPN capabilities all in one. A Cisco VPN always makes use of this type of hardware to set up an SSL VPN, although a PIX usually doesn't use the Cisco IOS software, but an efficient operating system that is designed to perform exceptionally well.

VPNs are used to connect offices and workstations together over a private network for various purposes. The type of software you implement depends on the type of network you are building. Most Cisco networks use a Cisco VPN client and software, for compatibility reasons. No matter what VPN client you use, an SSL should be set up to work as efficiently as possible, and have the proper security measures put in place to protect the dissemination of data.

Things have really changed in the past few years, with companies being forced to deal with worldwide markets and offices in different locations across the globe. With segments of modern businesses often spread out across different locations, the most important technology is the virtual private network. VPNs allow companies to maintain internal communications that are fast, safe, and reliable. Modern VPN technology and equipment give businesses the opportunity to do this inexpensively. Without the reliable communication capabilities of a VPN, companies wouldn't run so well.
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To learn more about VPNs, check out the VPN Web Site.
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