There are many different things which you can learn about VPNs. There’s our post on the different types of encryption, for example. But another nitty-gritty detail is what types of VPN networks there are out there, and how they work.
Get ready to learn about:
- The concept of tunneling encrypted data
- Client VPNs
- Network VPNs
The more you know about VPNs, the better you’ll feel about how they protect your privacy, data, and give you the security you deserve.
Types of VPN networks
What is ‘tunnelling’?
A central concept of how a VPN works is the concept of ‘tunnelling’. The ‘V’ in VPN stands for ‘Virtual’. With the ‘P’ standing for ‘Private’, this means that the privacy you receive isn’t given via physical means. You’re not getting your own private connection on your own private cable connecting you to every other server on the Internet.
What you are getting is a ‘virtually private’ connection. This is achieved by tunneling your data. A VPN takes your packets of data, encapsulates them within an encrypted tunnel, and transports data to and from your computer through it.
While your data is being transported it is completely protected within the tunnel. No one can intercept and decrypt it. Once the data reaches the destination, either the server you’re communicating with or its communications back to your computer, it is decrypted. This means that at any point between your computer and the server you’re connecting to no one knows what you’re doing, including:
- Law enforcement
- Your ISP
- Network admins
It doesn’t matter which of the next two types of VPNs you’re using, both will be creating a virtual tunnel using encryption and transporting your data through that tunnel.
Remote client-based VPNs
This is the type of VPN which we review here on our website, and which is easiest to use. With these you are using a client to handle everything for you. Getting a secure, encrypted ‘tunnel’ for your data is as simple as:
- Signing in using a username and password.
- Choosing an encryption protocol, most automatically select if you don’t.
- Connecting to a server in the country of your choosing.
- Enjoying an encrypted tunnel for all of your data.
This is for individuals and remote employees who want an easy, secure connection from:
- Their hotel
- Their school network
- A bar or restaurant
- Any unknown network
These are more commonly called ‘corporate VPNs’ because they are used by corporations who want to make sure that all of their communications are kept private at all times. They work by establishing a permanent tunnel between two networks. Let’s say the head office is in Chicago, and that the satellite location is in Aurora, Illinois. A network-based VPN will establish an encrypted tunnel between the computer networks of the two branches that is ‘on’ all the time.
There are, of course, limits to these types of networks:
- Only the data exchanged between the two networks is protected, connections to networks outside of them are not encrypted.
- You have to decide how to carry out the authentication methods, the passwords and certificates which let the networks know you’re allowed to be on the network.
- The type of content which is allowed can also be restricted, much to the occasional frustration of those on it.
They do not have the same diversity of use as client-based VPNs, but they do make sure that anyone who is allowed on the network has a secure line of communication between chosen networks. This is great for the CEO who knows everything …except what online security is really all about.
Online security is a must: Use one of these types of VPNs
Basically, there are 2 types of VPN networks. On can be used by anyone at all, anywhere (client-based). The other can be used by specific groups with specific encryption needs (network-based). The use of a VPN should no longer be something that is an option amongst those who share any type of sensitive information at any time – and yes your passwords shared over an unknown WiFi hotspot count!
Feature image via vchal / Shutterstock