What is a VPN Concentrator and How Do They Work?

If you are new to the idea of virtual private networks (VPN), you may have heard mention of ‘VPN concentrators' and found yourself stunned about what this is.

What is a VPN Concentrator?

Quick Answer: A VPN concentrator is a networking device that allows people to connect to a network from anywhere in the world through multiple VPN tunnels. This tool is particularly useful in the age of ‘digital nomads.'

How do VPN Concentrators Work?

Imagine that you create a business and hire people from different parts of the world online. Now, you need all these people to connect to your company's network and access their work files as though they were physically present at the office.

This is where a VPN concentrator comes in. A VPN concentrator will enable to create a secure network for your workers to collaborate and get things done.

In the past, this was achieved by combining several dial-up modems to increase bandwidth and users connected using the Remote Access Service (RAS) on Windows NT4.0. Today, VPN concentrators have changed the way this is done. This tool is not only useful in the corporate setting, but also in the military.

Why do you need a VPN concentrator?

The ability to enable users access files remotely is not unique to VPN concentrators. A VPN router and site-to-site VPN connections can perform the same function. What makes VPN concentrators unique is that they can provide secure VPN tunnels for thousands of people at the same time.

VPN concentrators are sometimes described as advanced VPN routers. They are more suited for large businesses rather than a home network.

If you are running a small business, you probably do not need a VPN concentrator. Although it may take some time to configure and authenticate multiple clients, it is possible to create a VPN network to support users from all over the world using a router.

A VPN concentrator is way more expensive than a simple VPN browser. It is not a feasible option unless you have hundreds or thousands of people using a network and the security of your data is of utmost importance.

Meanwhile, site-to-site VPN connection is more suited for remote users with fixed locations. You cannot use this type of VPN connection if you have to change your location frequently. Also, a site-to-site VPN connection is not suitable when you have multiple users. A site-to-site VPN connection is perfect for something like creating a VPN network between your computer at home and the office.

Another option for creating a remote connection between your devices is using remote desktop software. While remote desktop software can be useful, it does not work on the same scale as VPN concentrators.

Also, a remote desktop software does not provide any encryption, so your personal information is at risk if you are using them. The fact that remote desktop systems are built with static IP addresses makes them particularly susceptible to a security breach.

Apart from being able to support more users, there are other advantages of using VPN concentrators over VPN routers. Most modern VPN concentrators come with highly effective firewalls. VPN concentrators also provide data encryption, allow you to create VPN tunnels and authenticate users as well as assign tunnels to users.

Which VPN concentrator encryption to choose: IPSec or SSL?

There are two types of security protocols for CPN concentrators: Internet protocol security (IPsec) and secure socket layer (SSL).

IPSEC is more widely used than SSL. It gives remote users just about the same level of network access that they would get if they were connected locally. IPSEC is more secure than SSL. However, users need to configure client software on their device to be able to connect to the VPN network.

Many businesses use IPSEC as the protocol for their VPN concentrator network. IPSEC is best suited for accessing a VPN from a fixed location like your home or office.

SSL, on the other hand, is now a ubiquitous web encryption protocol. It is built into most browsers.

With SSL, there is no need for software configuration. Also, you do not need a fixed location when using the SSL protocol to access a VPN. You can connect to the network with just about any device. However, it only gives remote users access to web-based applications.

Key Takeaways

You must take the time to outline what your needs before you decide whether to get a VPN concentrator. As you know by now, there are many advantages of getting a VPN concentrator if your company can cover the cost. For small businesses and startups, it may be better to use a VPN router.