VPNs have been used for business for a long time before the Internet became as popular as it is today. In fact, the reason why VPNs even exist is that co-workers needed a way to share files between remote computers privately over a wide area network. Since then, VPNs have considerably evolved and they’re now used for a variety of purposes, such as enhanced security and bypassing geo-blockades.
How Does a VPN Work?
VPN stands for virtual private network, and essentially that’s exactly what it is: A private network of computers shared over a WAN such as the Internet. Modern VPNs work by connecting your PC to a proxy server, where it’s sent through a secure tunneling protocol such as OpenVPN or L2TP, given a new IP address and encrypted, before accessing an outside server on the web.
Since the connection is encrypted, it makes it much harder for a third party to eavesdrop on your Internet traffic and get their hands on any of your data. Also, since you receive a new IP address, you can make it seem as if you’re browsing the Internet from anywhere in the world (as long as there’s a proxy server to connect to in said part of the world), which has a myriad of uses all on its own. Besides that, there are a lot of other benefits that your small business can gain from using a VPN, and here are just a few of them.
DDoS is short for distributed denial of service, and put simply, what a DDoS attack basically does is use a large number of computers to assault a website with simultaneous requests, until the website can’t take anymore and shuts down.
These kinds of attacks happen every day if you’re not careful enough, and they can happen to you if you don’t have the right kind of protection. The good news is that most good VPN providers offer some kind of protection from DDoS attacks on their servers, and since your connection is hidden “behind” the VPN if the attack can’t get through their servers then it can’t reach your website either.
We mentioned that a VPN makes your connection more secure, and it does so by doing something to the data that you transmit via the Internet. What it does is it splits all your outgoing and incoming data into smaller pieces referred to as packets that carry small bits of information over a protocol such as HTTP or BitTorrent.
But that’s not all. For additional security, most VPNs will place these data packets inside other data packets, in a process called encapsulation. The outer layer provides you with additional encryption, so the packets can essentially be read only by the client (you, in this case) and the VPN server.
Additionally, before you can even connect to a VPN, the client computer and the remote access server you’re connecting are required to have a certain dedicated software installed, in order to create a functioning connection. This is the first layer of security that any VPN will depend on, and unlike a normal Internet connection, a VPN server will require you to input your credentials and authenticate yourself as a legitimate user of the connection.
Sharing Files Safely
Having a VPN for your small business means that whatever files you share with each other are off-limits to the rest of the Internet since they never leave your private network. It’s a great way to ensure there are no nasty data leaks and that no one is monitoring anything you transmit online, just as if you’d use an offline, local area connection to share files. You can even safely use P2P connections behind a VPN, which is one of the most efficient ways to share information these days.
Finally, we’re going to say a couple of things about public Wi-Fi, the risks involved with using it, and how a VPN can help you out in that department. Since public networks have a large number of devices connected to them at the same time, that means that you’re essentially in a LAN with everyone that’s on the same public network that you’re using at the given moment.
This gives hackers a much shorter route to your laptop or handheld device and any potential sensitive, business-related information you might be sharing over your connection. Internet banking inquiries, online purchases and anything of the sort is highly risky to do over a public network, so if you have to do them it’s highly recommended that you use a VPN to encrypt your connection from end to end, and decrease the chances that your financial information will fall into the wrong hands.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways in which a VPN can help you out if you happen to be running a small business. A paid VPN will generally work better than a free one, but it’s up to you to choose which one you’ll go for. There are a lot of good articles out there that analyze VPNs and inform you about their pros and cons, so we’re pretty certain that you’ll be able to find one that suits your needs.
This post was written by Michael Conley for Mazinoweb. Michael Conley is a digital security specialist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has been writing for 9to5alternatives.com
since 2013. Besides computer programming, his passions in life are winemaking, old movies and playing the saxophone.