If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re either interested in setting up a VPN server for your organization or are at the very least curious about what a VPN server is and how it works.
A VPN server, or virtual private network server, is a network device that provides secure communications for users. It is a software-based counterpart to an appliance-based VPN, which is a dedicated piece of hardware that securely connects your organization’s internal network (intranet) to the Internet.
The number of organizations that have adopted VPNs is growing, and so is the number of individuals who need them to keep their personal data secure when online. Many large organizations use VPNs to provide secure connections to employees and contractors while they are traveling, whether that is within the U.S. or internationally. By enabling these users to connect remotely through a secure connection to the organization’s local network, VPNs can protect sensitive information such as credit cards, bank account details, and social security numbers.
Why a VPN Server?
There are many layers of security that you need to get right before you can guarantee that your personal data is safe when you’re online. One layer is ensuring that your personal data is actually secure when you’re transmitting it across the Internet. Another layer is protecting it once it is on the receiving end. A VPN server takes care of the second layer – ensuring that your data is not intercepted by any third parties.
Data is highly susceptible to being hacked when in transit, so it is essential that you put measures in place to protect it. This is where a VPN server comes in; it secures all of your personal data as it passes through it, shielding you from hackers and preventing anyone from accessing your data.
The best part of a VPN server is that it does all of this behind the scenes, meaning you don’t have to worry about configuring ports, creating multiple virtual networks, or figuring out how to connect your various network devices. Simply install the VPN server software and start using it immediately. You will be given a secure IP address that allows you to connect to the Internet securely, as well as a dedicated IP address that allows you to connect to the VPN server privately within your network.
The Anatomy of a VPN Server
VPNs are built on the Linux operating system, which is open source. This means that you have complete control over the software, and you can modify it to suit your specific needs. When you install a VPN server, you will see a menu with several options – typically, you will be asked to select either OpenVPN or L2TP/IPSec for the encryption protocol that you want to use.
The following are the various components that you will need to have in place before you start using the VPN server.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
Perhaps the biggest selling point of a VPN is that it encrypts all of your data as it travels across the Internet. If you’ve ever shopped online, bought something, or logged on to a website via a secured connection, you’ve used SSL.
SSL is the secure version of the standard TCP/IP protocol, which is why we use it to secure our communications on the Internet. When you send an encrypted message to someone, they will receive it, but if someone else intercepts it along the way, they won’t be able to read it. With only a few exceptions, such as Google, Apple, and AWS, the majority of websites use SSL encryption to protect your personal data.
While it is great that all of your data is safely secured as it travels across the Internet, ensuring that your data is actually stored safely on your computer is another matter. To do this, you will need to have a hard drive – a device that stores digital data and is protected by an internal metal band – in addition to your SSD (solid state drive), which stores the operating system and frequently accessed data.
The best part of a VPN server is that it provides you with a secure connection to the Internet, allowing you to browse the web, download files, and execute other tasks safely. However, if you really want to secure your data, you will need to have two separate drives – one with your operating system and another with your data. Backing up your data daily, as well as having a server crash protection system in place that can restore your data from backup are other measures you can take to ensure your data is always safe and secure.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
The Linux-based operating system that runs the VPN server is what allows you to have complete control over the software. It is from this operating system that you can download and install additional software, such as OpenVPN. This software allows you to establish a secure VPN connection to a remote server, making it possible to securely access resources on the Internet that you would normally be unable to reach.
OpenVPN is one of the most popular open source VPN clients, which is probably why you’ve chosen to go this route. It is actually the default option under Linux, providing you with an easy way to connect. Once you have your OpenVPN client installed and configured, all of your devices, including your web browser, will be able to communicate securely through a VPN connection to the server.
VPNs should not be confused with proxy servers, which can be used to circumvent geographic restrictions that might be imposed by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). A VPN works by encrypting all of the data that is transferred, meaning that someone else cannot see or access the content that you’re trying to hide. If you’re curious about why you might want to use a VPN, consider the following situations:
Protecting Your Home Network
If you’re reading this, you might be interested in protecting your home network from hackers and identity thieves. A VPN can help by providing a secure connection to the Internet through one of your devices. Once connected, you can browse the web securely, making it harder for hackers and cybercriminals to access your personal data while you’re connected.
This might be a good option for people who frequently travel for work, as it means you don’t have to worry about connecting to a network across the country or world when you travel. There are several reputable VPNs that you can try out. You may also want to consider buying a dedicated device that acts as a VPN client, so you don’t have to worry about installing and configuring software on all of your devices.
Protecting Your Business Network
If you’re running a business, whether profit or nonprofit, you might want to consider protecting the network that you’ve built. Just like at home, a VPN can help protect your business network by providing a secure connection to the Internet through one of your devices. Unlike at home, however, your business network will be accessible by people that you’ve invited to connect to it, which means that you will have to carefully consider what encryption protocol you will use and who will have access to what information. The key decision point will be whether or not to use a VPN for your employees, as well as what type of device or software you will use to connect to it.
The first step in setting up a VPN for your business is to determine what kind of encryption protocol you will use. As mentioned earlier, you have two choices here: OpenVPN or L2TP/IPSec (sometimes referred to as IPSec).
The OpenVPN protocol is free and open source, which means that there are thousands of server communities around the world that you can connect to for free. You can use OpenVPN to secure your home network or business network. To connect to an OpenVPN server, you will need to download and install the OpenVPN client, which is typically found in the apps section of your phone’s store. You will then be able to establish a secure VPN connection to an OpenVPN server. It is well-known for being very easy to use, and while it is completely secure, it is also very flexible.
Unfortunately, not all OpenVPN servers are created equal. Some OpenVPN servers have a bad reputation for being very slow. If you need speed, you might want to consider other protocols, such as IPSec. IPSec is mostly known for being very reliable and being able to provide speed comparable to that of OpenVPN.
Choosing a Dedicated Device
If you’re looking for a dedicated device that will act as a VPN client, consider buying one that is specifically designed for this purpose. Some of these devices utilize the hardware that was previously used to run a web server, meaning that you don’t have to configure or install any software on it. Simply connect it to the internet and start using it as a VPN client.