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A virtual private network (VPN) is a private network that is built over a public infrastructure. Security mechanisms, such as encryption, allow VPN users to securely access a network from different locations via a public telecommunications network, most frequently the Internet.
In some cases, virtual area network (VAN) is a VPN synonym.
VPN data security remains constant through encrypted data and tunneling protocols. The key VPN advantage is that it is less expensive than a private wide area network (WAN) buildout. As with any network, an organization's goal is to provide cost-effective business communication.
In a remote-access VPN, an organization uses an outside enterprise service provider (ESP) to establish a network access server (NAS). Remote users then receive VPN desktop software and connect to the NAS via a toll-free number, which accesses the organization's network. In a site-to-site VPN, many sites use secure data encryption to connect over a network (usually the Internet).