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Mastering the Art of When to Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

data security with virtual private networks

What is a VPN?

Definition: A virtual private network, or VPN, is popular network and internet security technique which allows users – whether they are individuals or part of a business – to send and receive data while maintaining the secrecy of a private network. A VPN is a secure and private solution within the wider internet itself.

Should your business be using a VPN?

This question is one that we get asked regularly here at EnableIP, so we’re going to dig into the weeds a little bit on this one and give you management folks more information on how to make this important decision a little easier.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as we move through this topic.

Let’s say you’re tasked with encrypting all corporate information in motion across a WAN. One common myth is that MPLS networks are encrypted by the carrier. This is when we grab our BS flag (only issued to tenured engineers) and wave it around.

On the contrary, none of the current MPLS transport offerings encrypt your data; they only privatize it using virtual routers. This same principle applies if the MPLS has a VPLS, FR, ATM, Private Line or any other sort Layer 1, 2, or 3 technology (some are just a little harder to tap and access). In this case, a VPN network is a viable solution.

Another common scenario when using a VPN is recommended is for website development. For example, imagine you’ve been asked to bring a new site onboard by Monday and it’s Friday afternoon. This is the first IT has heard of it, and of course everything must be fully operational upon launching.

We’ve all been here at some point.

Now, for those of you who aren’t super technical but have control over the budget, first you’ll want to make sure you acquire a compatible VPN device (same manufacturer and series) that can be provisioned for this new site.

Why?

Because bringing up a VPN between dissimilar devices can be as much fun as sticking your hand into a meat grinder. Sometimes you’ll have more luck getting your hand mangled than the VPN coming up (and staying up or reestablishing) if you don’t have two devices that play well together.

Trust us on this one — this is not the time to go cheap. Whatever you think you’ll be saving in hardware you will end up spending in man hours as your team tries to make the two disparate devices work together.

At EnableIP, our favorite use of a VPN is as a backup solution to a primary network when we’re providing a high level of 99.99% uptime for our customers. We call this service “Cloud Assurance.”

If a carrier tells you their core network never goes down, then they haven’t been around for very long because these core melts happen with ALL carriers sooner or later. Throughout our 30+ years of experience, we’ve seen the creative ways in which carriers try to explain away the existence of these meltdowns to their customers.

(Sidenote: Ever wondered why it takes a carrier a week or more to release an RFO? It’s the legal covering and an effort to minimize the actual impact of the event.)

We aim to guarantee carrier diversity and we aren’t carrying traffic that mandates tight SLAs for loss, delay, jitter, and throughput.

How do we accomplish this?

Our solutions provide a high degree of carrier diversity and more critical sites are placed on the Tier 1 ISPs to reduce risk from core melt issues.

In short, the key takeaway is this:

VPN success isn’t achieved by trying to use 57 different types of VPN devices to create your VPN solution. Instead, ensure you select carriers that keep the BS flag in your engineers’ pocket.

For more information about when to use a VPN, contact our network experts at EnableIP today.

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