Virtual Private Network

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What Does Virtual Private Network Mean?

A virtual private network (VPN) is a private network connection that is built over a public network infrastructure such as the internet.


Security mechanisms, including encryption and hiding the user’s IP address, allow authorized VPN users to access their corporate network remotely. VPNs are also useful for protecting personal information in public Wi-Fi settings such as airports.

VPN apps typically require multi-factor authentication (MFA), use context-aware security strategies and enforce the use of strong passwords.

Techopedia Explains Virtual Private Network

VPNs use both encryption and tunneling protocols to optimize security.

Advantages of using a VPN

There are several different types of VPN software applications that can be used in a business or corporate setting. One of the most common types is called remote access VPN. A remote access VPN is simply an app that can be downloaded and installed. It is managed by a third-party service provider and allows users and devices to securely connect to corporate storage and software assets just as if the worker was physically in the office.

Remote access VPNs are typically supported by security policies that dictate under what conditions a user or device can be authenticated. For example, a VPN app may need to detect updated anti-virus software on the requesting device or verify biometric information about the end user before granting access to the app.

Disadvantages of using a VPN

When a user connects to a VPN, the user’s data is routed through the VPN provider’s servers for enctyprion. Because data traveling through a VPN is encrypted, it’s fairly common for users to experience slower upload and download times on a VPN.

To provide anonymity, VPNs also replaces the user’s IP address with one of the provider’s addresses. This can cause a problem if the user’s “new IP address” end up being blocked for political or compliance reasons.

Free VPN providers

Lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in business VPN use in a very short timeframe. Security experts recommend that users should be wary of using free VPN applications and read their VPN license agreement carefully before clicking “I agree.” Many free VPN providers ask for permission to log browser activity, for example, which essentially defeats the purpose of using a virtual private network.


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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.