Traditional Wide Area Networks running over
leased telephone lines are very secure, but quite expensive on monthly
telephone bills. Considering the very low cost of Internet traffic, it may
make sense to use the Internet instead of dial-up or leased lines. One big
problem: security on the Internet is essentially none.
Running normal network traffic over the Internet, while easy to do, leaves your systems wide open to invasion. It is quite easy for someone with a packet sniffer (hardware or software) to capture your network packets and obtain your passwords.
To overcome this problem, a VPN encrypts network packets that are to be sent onto the internet then wraps them in a normal Internet packet. At the receiving end, the packet is verified, then the content is stripped out decrypted and released onto the local network.
A major problem with VPNs has been the cost of the necessary equipment. Fortunately, costs are falling as this field matures, and software VPNs are becoming available for those not needing hardware level performance.
VPN software is included with Windows 98/NT/2000 and some versions of Windows95. While not particularly fast or secure, it may meet your needs. Software VPN is also inexpensively available for Linux and OS/2.
Some CLECs are providing VPN service between selected cites. In other words, if you sign up for DSL service and VPN with the same CLEC in Los Angeles and Chicago, you can have VPN service between your offices in those two cities. Right now VPN is far from standardized, so you can't mix and match CLECS.
©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access
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