Meg Thornley
Social Media and Project Manager

VPN Virtual Private Network

To understand what a VPN, or Virtual Private Network is, you must first understand what a network is. A network is simply a set of things which are linked together, for example you are linked to your friends by your friendship, and linked to your friends’ friends by their friendship. In the computing world, most computers are ‘friends’ or link to the router on the local network. This is usually your Wi-Fi router.

This link is very important, as every computer that is linked to that Wi-Fi router can see each other, and interact with each other. For example, you can send files to computers on your network, or you can cast to a dongle to watch YouTube on your TV from your tablet. However, computers looking in from the outside world can only see your router. This is called a ‘private network’.

Often, particularly in business we want to see computers that are on the private network at work, but from another location. An example of this might be a computer there with all of our files, and we might want to access them from home. We don’t however want to expose those files to the outside world.

 

A Virtual, Private Network (VPN)

Before VPNs, I would have to setup a specific way of getting those files securely to my computer. It is important that no matter where I am this is safe, secure and fast enough for me to do my work. There might not just be files however, I might have to access a database, or any other shared resource. Each of these would have to be setup, and maintained. This is costly and takes time.

Without a VPN, your computer and your work’s network would see things like this:

vpnimage1

With a VPN however, things become a little different. You trick the network into seeing things like this:

vpnimage2

What this means is that everything that was previously seen as remote, is now seen as local. I am part of the ‘private network’ using a ‘virtual’ link. This allows people like me to work from home, with all of the resources I would have in the office.