Since its inception, the internet has struggled to maintain regulation and security by its users and those who seek to benefit from its access. A majority of people looking to seek and exchange information via the internet are also looking to keep their data and information secured and somewhat private. Enter the VPN. The virtual private network (VPN) technology originated just over twenty years ago in 1996. Essentially, a VPN is a private connection between a computer and the internet. There are several different properties that are entailed in a functioning virtual private network. However, all of these protocols bring together a network that is able to connect people over a public or private connection. It might be easier to think of a VPN as an internet within the internet. They have provided the ability for users to connect how they want and where they want.
VPNs were originally developed by and for big corporations and organizations. These companies needed a secure and private network in order for their different offices in difference physical locations to access and share information without heavy risk. VPNs were the only way that these companies could share information and ensure that it would be private and secure. The issue arose on how these different office locations could access the same information and files privately and securely. VPNs brought a solution to this problem without worrying about the physical locations. These companies and organizations had no idea that the VPN would move to serve the purposes that it does today.
As the internet grew and evolved, several issues began to arise, including blockage of specific websites through institutions like schools and governments. These issues brought about the need for a way for users to access these sites anonymously. VPNs began to expand their market to the end users with more features and services.
The popularity of VPNs skyrocketed for a number of reasons. As privacy issues began to arise, people began wondering about their own online privacy. Situations brought to light through people and organizations like Wiki-leaks and Edward Snowden brought public awareness to the fine line of private internet usage. Additionally, new website services popped up that were restricted in certain countries. This is where VPNs began expanding globally as people began trying to access these websites from different continents. Also, some of these countries have strict censorship laws when it comes to the internet and certain sites. VPNs allowed people in these countries to circumvent these government restrictions in a private and secured manner.
It is also a more convenient and affordable option for the users. Connecting users through a network, especially in different geographical locations, can turn out to be a costly task. VPNs are a less expensive way of establishing a secured connection remotely. As a company or organization begins to grow, so do the costs for expansion and connection. One of the major costs for users is the use of a long-distance leased line. The solution here is that VPNs require a shorter connection to the service provider through a local leased line or a broadband connection. By establishing these low cost connections remotely, it eliminates cost for excess support, overhead, traffic and real-estate. These are major benefits that the companies or organizations can see through the use of a VPN.
These VPNs also have many different functions. In addition to the fact that VPNs can be used to override censorship, they can also improve the online experience, and work to ensure privacy and security in a connection. VPNs have the ability to connect users from different geographical locations in a secured manner through a central secured network. People use these networks to access websites that are blocked through their current networks, or to search the internet anonymously without anyone, from hackers to the government, able to track them down directly.
There are also several different types of these virtual private networks, each with different protocols. There are business VPNs, personal VPNs, and tunneling protocols that include PPTP (point-to-point tunneling protocol), SSTP (secure socket tunneling protocol) and more. Also, different types of encryption are used to protect the users of the VPNs. The tunneling protocols basically function as ID codes for the data and information being shared via the network. It helps establish who is accessing the network and what information they have access to. When it comes to tunneling, there are two main forms – voluntary and compulsory. Voluntary tunneling is managed by the client. In compulsory tunneling, it is managed by the network provider.
About a quarter of network and internet users are using VPNs around the globe. This number is still significantly lower than it should be for the amount of people using the internet. As mentioned earlier, the internet in general doesn’t have a set regulation or security established. VPNs are primarily used to protect the online users. These numbers show a huge portion of the internet user population that is still unprotected in their connections. Some areas around the world have developed greater use of the VPN. A few of the countries leading the way in VPN usage include Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey. Globally, there has been a push to bring awareness to the importance of encryption and VPNs for the users.
Despite all of these major advantages, no system comes without flaws or limits. There are a couple of downfalls to the VPN that must be considered. It requires careful installation and configuration in order to ensure the quality security and privacy of the network. The VPN also requires a high level of understanding when it comes to network security issues. The control of the performance and reliability of these private internet networks is not up to the user but rather an ISP. VPNs are also difficult to mix and match between vendors and equipment, as different producers are not always compatible with one another.
To bring it full circle, we understand that a VPN can take many different forms. Whether it connects users between two end-systems, or two or more networks, they can use tunnels, encryption or even both to maintain security. The primary benefit of a VPN is connection and data security, but it also tears down the barrier of physical boundaries by connecting people from anywhere in the world. The internet is not a secure of safe place, so the need for VPNs is necessary. In order to avoid issues like spying, hacking, malware and viruses, a private network is somewhat required. Additionally, in order to navigate through restrictions placed on the internet by the government or some other institution, you will need a secured network like a VPN to bypass those issues.