The One-Minute VPN Definition
A VPN – short for virtual private network – is software that is used to manage a network or Internet connection for security and performance reasons. We won’t dive into the technical aspects of how a VPN works right now (we’ve already done that before); instead, we will provide a general overview of how VPN technology works and why it’s important.
One-quarter of all Internet users have accessed a VPN in the last month.TheBestVPN.com
When a user installs a VPN on their computer (called the client), the computer creates a secure connection (called a tunnel) across the Internet to a designated device (called a server), which then connects to other locations on the network and masks all of the user’s activity from the computer to the server to the website (for example).
This connection is created when the user verifies their computer (authenticates the client) with the VPN server. The VPN then applies a special process to jumble up the data (called encryption) that passes through it.
Fundamentally, this is how a VPN operates. However, a VPN definition would not be complete without a mention of how the data is actually protected. This is where things get a bit technical: Whenever any data is sent over the Internet, it is first split into small pieces called packets. To ensure that each data packet stays secure, a VPN wraps it in another outer packet, which is then encrypted through a process called encapsulation. This extra packet is what keeps the data secure during transfer, and is the core element of a VPN tunnel.
Breaking Down V-P-N
To further simplify this VPN definition, let’s look at each word separately; understanding each term individually is a great way to better understand the technology as a whole.
A VPN is:
VIRTUAL because it establishes a digital connection to another device or network;
PRIVATE because it encrypts the data being sent over the connection; and
A NETWORK because the software creates a collection of computers, servers, mainframes, network devices, peripherals, or other devices that are all connected to one another to allow the sharing of data.
Who should use a VPN?
In the modern climate of internet security, VPNs play an important role in protecting devices and networks. But these are the three types of people in particular that should consider using a VPN almost all of the time.
1) People who regularly use public Wi-Fi
When connecting to public Wi-Fi in an airport or coffee shop – even a password-protected one – a VPN is the only way to ensure that the connection is secure and won’t be intercepted by a man-in-the-middle attack.
2) People who travel often (for work or pleasure)
When traveling to a foreign country, a VPN allows users to access services that may not otherwise be available in that country. Additionally, accessing corporate resources from outside the company’s home country may be difficult or even impossible without a reliable VPN.
3) People who deal with sensitive personal data
A data breach that exposes sensitive personal information like health data or Social Security Numbers is not only embarrassing but could be incredibly expensive if it is determined that the enterprise was at fault due to poor security infrastructure.