How to use a VPN (with VPN definition and benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

With the rise of working from home and remote work opportunities in organisations, the need for technology that supports connecting with members of staff from any location is becoming more important. One of the most useful tools to do this is by providing secure access to digital infrastructure, applications and information through a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN can help you to share information from anywhere in the world while protecting data through encrypted servers. In this article, we learn how to use a VPN, discuss why professionals are using VPNs and examine VPNs in greater detail.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a type of private network that allows employers and employees to access company infrastructure, such as servers or databases, securely. They work by establishing a connection between a computer or internet-enabled device and a secure server that's hosted online. Using a VPN typically involves using the Internet to access the server and data, instead of going through the device's own IP address.

There are lots of reasons to use a VPN, such as the ability to work in different locations while still maintaining store security for the network. There are a few different types of VPN, but the most common types for business purposes include:

  • Remote access VPNs: Remote access VPNs work by connecting users to a company network that typically exists at a company's main branch or headquarters. This type of VPN allows employees who opt for remote working to gain access to company data and software when they're outside of the office.

  • Site-to-site VPNs: Site-to-site VPNs are a more permanent form of VPN, creating a strong network between office locations for a company. It's a useful way to bring different offices of a company together onto the same network, such as branch locations or franchises.

Related: What is an IP address? (With definition and application)

How to use a VPN if you're an employer

Knowing how to use a VPN is advantageous for employers as they can provide staff with full access to company networks remotely. Follow the steps below to use a VPN if you're an employer:

1. Gather the right resources

First, it's important that you have the right VPN resources to set up a VPN. This includes:

  • VPN client: A VPN client is the application that a company uses to connect employee computers to a company server.

  • VPN server: A VPN server is either a physical or digital place to store data that you intend to share with employees.

  • VPN router: A VPN router is hardware you use to encrypt the network connection to make it secure.

To set up a VPN for a business, it's important to think about where you're going to source these resources. To do this, look at the options available, for example, some VPN routers come with VPN clients pre-installed. Once you decide which VPN provider to use, register with them to get set up.

3. Set up the devices

Next, set up all the company devices so that they're suitable for VPN usage, as this helps mitigate problems associated with existing applications that may interfere with the VPN. To do this, remove any previous VPN applications on devices. It's also easier to set up the devices if you disconnect them from rarely used servers.

3. Set up the VPN

Once you've got all the devices ready, it's time to roll out the VPN. To do this, you download and instal the VPN clients that the VPN company provides you with. Most VPN providers have a 'downloads' section on their website which gives you access to these resources. Download the applications onto every device you intend to connect to the VPN. You can also contact the VPN provider directly to receive instructions on how to connect the VPN to devices manually.

Related: 13 essential work from home tips

4. Choose your protocols

It's useful to select the most appropriate protocols depending on how you want to use the VPN. VPN protocols are essentially rules that govern how connections in the network happen. Different protocols allow for different ways to direct data between employee computers and VPN servers. Some of the most common protocols include:

  • Open VPN: This protocol lets you view the code found in the VPN, which is a great option if you want to tailor or customise the network. It's the most common protocol found in VPNs.

  • L2TP/IPSec: This is a security-focused protocol that offers strong protection through encryption and authentication. It's a good option if you intend to store sensitive data and share it across the network.

  • SSTP: The Secure Socket Tunnelling Protocol is most commonly found on Microsoft operating systems and it offers good security and encryption.

Related: 10 types of software for remote work that companies can try

How to use a VPN if you're an employee

If you're an employee at a company that uses a VPN, it's helpful to know how to use the VPN setup effectively. Look at the steps below:

1. Check VPN details with your employer

First, if your employer wants you to use a VPN, it's helpful to know which VPN provider they prefer. The provider they choose determines the application you download and instal, so it's critical you follow their protocol to stay aligned. Your employer might also provide additional details about how to download the software and the steps to use it safely.

2. Download the VPN software

Once you know what VPN provider your employer wants you to use, it's time to get the software. You can usually do this step through the VPN provider website on their 'downloads' page, but it may be different depending on the provider. Check that your device is compatible with the VPN.

If it isn't, then speak with your employer to have them manually set up the VPN server on your device for you. It's also common practice to use company server information to set up the VPN on your device, so it's a good idea to speak with the IT department at the company to verify the details.

Related: 12 remote work tools for freelancers and remote employees

3. Log in to your VPN client

Once you have the VPN client installed on your device, it's time to log in with your credentials to gain access to the network. Sometimes, your employer provides you with these details, but you might also register directly with the VPN provider for login credentials. Once you have this information, you have all you need to log in and connect to the VPN. If all goes well, you also have full access to company files and software found on the digital server.

What are the benefits of a VPN for businesses?

VPNs offer several benefits for businesses and employees at a company. Some of the major benefits associated with VPNs include:

Maintains data integrity

VPNs are a great way to maintain data integrity across a company by creating a single network for all staff to use, regardless of their physical location. At companies using VPNs, every employee has the same access to key applications, databases and other assets necessary for their job. Here, knowledge bases or account information are available to staff with proper credentials and they can work remotely with access to these resources. If a company uses software on a subscription basis, VPNs allow all employees to use this software by sharing the subscription details with them, even if they're working remotely.

Increases security

With the rise of remote working, the need for increased security rises too as there are more risks associated with entering networks from the outside, rather than in a closed-off network. Remote access to servers and databases increases the chances of cyber attacks and third parties looking to gain access to private networks, so a VPN is a great way to mitigate this risk.

VPNs increase the security of company Internet connections for staff by allowing them to enter the network and access data without compromising it. Bringing in a shared network via VPN is also a good way to improve security when sharing data among staff, as it uses private servers instead of third-party applications, like email clients, to share data.

Related: What is data security and why is it important? (With types)

Breaks down geographical barriers

VPNs are an excellent way to connect professionals with companies without geographical restrictions. That means someone living in one country has all the resources available to work for a company in a different country. It also adds flexibility for employees, as they're equipped to work while they travel abroad. From the employer's side, this means they don't lose talent if they decide to move abroad or take some time off to travel. It also opens up the possibility of opening remote offices and branches while still providing the right resources for work.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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