A VPN or a virtual private network is a tool that can extend a private network across a public network. VPNs allow users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their devices were directly connected to the private network. It is a tool that netizens can use to connect to a network securely over the internet. This tool establishes a private connection, also known as a VPN tunnel, through which all the traffic and communications are routed. VPNs can be categorised into different types. Here we will discuss the different types of VPNs and where should you use them.
Different types of VPNs that are available to the users
There are several variables that users should keep in mind while choosing the right VPN service. These variables include — speed, security, cost, bandwidth and VPN protocols. It can be challenging for users to choose the apt service if they don’t have a clear understanding of VPN features and their requirements.
Remote Access VPNs — This is the most common type of VPN that is available for users. It uses a secure remote server to connect the users to a private network. A remote-access VPN creates a virtual tunnel between the user’s device and the private network to route the user’s data. The data moving through these networks remain secure using encryption protocols. To establish a connection to the VPN, users need to install the client VPN software. These types of VPNs are ideal for personal use as they are easy to set up and use. Remote access VPNs can easily bypass geo-blocks and access restricted content.
Site-to-Site VPNs — These types of VPNs are commonly used by large organisations where multiple users need to access shared resources in various locations. Companies with several branches in various locations depending on site-to-site VPNs to connect one branch’s network with another branch. A Site-to-Site VPN can connect geographically distant offices through the internet to provide secure communication. Since this VPN connection depends on router-to-router communication, one router has to act as a client while the other as a VPN server. These routers start communicating with each other only after both the endpoints are authenticated.
These connections are available in two forms — Intranet-based VPN and Extranet-based VPN. An Intranet-based VPN can connect two separate LANs to a single WAN to link two offices of the same company. Whereas, an extranet-based VPN is used by companies to connect to a network of another firm. For example, when an organisation needs to connect to its supplier’s network for efficient trade.
Client to Server VPN — This type of VPN is particularly useful while accessing insecure public WLANs. As the connection is encrypted till it reaches the provider, it stops ISPs and third parties from compromising data. A client to server VPN maintains the security and resources of the network while establishing a secure connection between clients and a corporate network. It creates a new VPN tunnel that allows a user to access the network without affecting the security and privacy. Universal access to company resources for employees is a huge advantage of a client to server VPN. It allows clients to connect to the corporate network from their homes and work as if they were present at the office.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) VPN — This service is compatible with a peer-to-peer network. This service can be useful for users who are searching for a file on a P2P network. It can locate copies of the file and tries to create connections with the sources that include parts of or the entire requested file. P2P accelerates the file-sharing process as the users don’t have to download the file from a single location. Instead, it is downloaded from multiple nodes that include small chunks of the same data. The file also gets uploaded for more users while you download it.
However, a P2P VPN can secure users’ data but cannot keep them safe from malicious files. The risk of malicious actors being present in the network is always there as peer-to-peer networks depend on data being hosted by different nodes. If users accidentally download malware thinking it to be a legitimate file, a P2P VPN won’t be able to protect their device. Many countries have strict laws to discourage P2P file sharing as it can be used to access illegal content like copyrighted software, movies, and music.
Difference between single-protocol and multi-protocol VPNs
VPN protocols decide how data will be routed through a network. VPN services offer users various protocols and each of them offers different benefits and functionality. Some focus more on data encryption for security and privacy, whereas others prioritise connection speeds. Some services stick to a single protocol while others allow users to choose a protocol according to their needs. Some of the commonly used protocols include — PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, IKev2, and OpenVPN.
For example, AirVPN is a single-protocol VPN that uses OpenVPN. OpenVPN is an open-source protocol that is considered one of the most secure options among VPN protocols. A VPN with a single protocol might not offer any additional advantage, but these are equally reliable as the VPNs offering multiple protocols. Versatility in protocols allows users to securely bypass VPN blocks, stream geo-restricted videos and access censored content.