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VPN is an acronym for “Private Virtual Network”. This is a private network that makes use of a public network, typically the Internet, to connect users or remote sites. A Virtual Private Network employs “virtual” connections through the Internet. Such connections originate from business’ private network to the user or remote site. To utilize a Virtual Private Network, each client has to possess proper networking hardware or software support on their local computers and network. VPN technology also functions properly with Wi-Fi local area networking. This paper focuses on the merits and demerits of Virtual Private Network technology, and IPsec, PPTP and PP2TP network protocols (Parsons & Oja, 2009).
One advantage of Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology is the enhancement of security. When a person connects to a network through a VPN, there is encryption of data. This means that hackers and other network users cannot access the real contents of the information in transmission. In essence, data encryption is one of the most reliable measures of enhancing security of information on a network.
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Another benefit of VPN technology is the ability to access information from any place. Authentic users can access information from the network. There is no need for an individual to be at any location in order to access network resources. This offers convenience and for all network users. Members of a given organization may share pertinent information regardless of their location and time. As a result, VPN technology may increase the productivity of any given institution which makes good use of it (PCWorld Staff, 2000).
In addition, Virtual Private Network offers absolute anonymity when surfing on the World Wide Web. In some cases, people need to hide their confidential information from other unscrupulous network users, especially on the Internet. Sensitive personal information should be easily accessible to everyone. One most trustworthy way of ensuring confidentiality of Internet users is anonymous surfing. VPN technology, fortunately, offers this feature to network users who have it. Besides, it helps people to access web sites which are under censorship, in some regions. This allows people to obtain information from networks irrespective of their location. Employees of organizations can use their organizations’ network resources from all regions, ensuring company operations go on uninterrupted.
Besides, use of Virtual Private Networks increases network performance significantly. VPN technology increases bandwidth and network efficiency. When bandwidth is high, speed of accessing network resources and information from the Internet also increases. This makes network use convenient, comfortable and effective. Consequently, the general performance of the network gets a boost.
Furthermore, Virtual Private Network technology helps organizations reduce network maintenance costs. This is because once the technology is under implementation, there is little effort needed to maintain it. Essentially, the cost of maintaining a virtual private network is substantially low, and the network surveillance and setup is of little concern to the given organization. It is more cost-effective to implement a Virtual Private Network technology than when handling the most other network technologies (PCWorld Staff, 2000).
Other than the many benefits that VPN technology offers, there a number of limitations that the same technology presents to an organization implementing it. Organizations have to take into consideration a number of issues during deployment, installation and configuration of Virtual Private Networks. Fundamentally, virtual private networks have various limitations and people ought to be utterly careful if they intend to implement them within their organizations, for effective use.
To begin with Virtual private Networks require a clear understanding and vast knowledge of network security matters. There is a high level of expertise when installing and configuring Virtual Private Networks. This is so as to guarantee adequate protection and security on public networks, especially the Internet.
Additionally, an organization cannot determine its own preferable network performance and reliability when implementing VPN technology. In most, it is the respective Internet Service Provider that the organization for the direct determination of the network’s performance and reliability. Sometimes, Internet Service Providers may fail to meet the high standards that organizations set.
Thirdly, it is a historical fact that Virtual Network solutions and Products from different vendors differ significantly. There are usually issues of compatibility of such products because of the different standards that VPN vendors use. As a result, consumers opt to get their products from one vendor. This, in economic terms, does not permit cost-effectiveness to any consumer since a vendor cannot sell all its products at low prices.
IPsec is the short form of Internet Protocol Security. This is a protocol suite that ensures security of Internet Protocol communications. It achieves this through authentication and encryption of all Internet Protocol packets of any communication session. Internet Protocol Security Protocol also includes protocols which establish mutual authentication between different agents. This takes place at the start of the negotiation of cryptographic keys and session keys for use during the session.
Internet Protocol Security is a point-to-point security scheme functioning in the Internet Layer of the IP suite. It is essential in the protection of data flows between hosts, security gateways (network-to-network), or security gateway and hosts.
PPTP stands for Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol. It is a method for the implementation of virtual private networks (VPNs). Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol employs a control channel over Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and a Generic Route Encapsulation (GRE) tunnel which operates to encapsulate Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) packets.
The specification of PPTP does not describe authentication or encryption features and depends on the Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) in use, to implement security functionality. Nevertheless, the most common Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol implementation, usually with the Microsoft Windows family of product, implements several levels of encryption and authentication natively as the standard features of the Windows Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol stack. The actual use of this protocol is to offer similar levels of remote access and security as typical Virtual Protocol Network products.
L2TP is the short form of Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol. This is a tunneling protocol which supports virtual private networks, which acts as part of the delivery of services by Internet Service Providers. It does have its own confidentiality and encryption features. It relies solely on an encryption protocol within the tunnel to offer privacy on the network. L2TP incorporates the best features of PPTP and L2F (Zhuo, 2010).