What to look for when buying a VPN

Wednesday, 29 January 2003, 11:37 AM EST

Virtual private networking is becoming an integral part of today's data networks. Virtual private network (VPN) drivers range from securing corporate communications to reducing costs by replacing leased lines. But for those who have not yet deployed a VPN, the options can be daunting. There are several approaches and dozens of products and services from which to choose, each with its own pros and cons.

Let's take a look at the various solutions and how they apply to different environments.

There are two types of VPN technologies used on the Internet today: the trusted VPN and the secure VPN. Trusted VPNs are provisioned and managed by Internet service providers by defining paths through their networks to ensure that customers' traffic is routed over a trusted path. A customer might choose a trusted VPN because there is no equipment to buy, it's completely managed by the service provider and thus requires no maintenance, and they often include service-level agreements. Typically, trusted VPNs are less expensive upfront but more expensive over time.

Secure VPNs, on the other hand, protect traffic and provide privacy, authentication and data integrity through cryptographic algorithms. Secure VPNs can be managed by the user or the service provider. Trusted and secure VPNs can also be used together in a hybrid VPN. Because trusted VPNs are always purchased from service providers and the customer has few options on the configuration and deployment of the VPN, the remainder of this article will focus on secure VPNs.

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