A virtual private network (VPN) client connection is a connection from a remote site to a local area network such as an office intranet. This connection allows the user to send and receive secure data that cannot be accessed by other Internet users, even though the user is connecting over the Internet. Such connections can allow people to work from home, access school networks remotely and engage in other activities in which they need secure access to a private network but cannot physically be at a certain location.
Using a VPN client connection, the user can log on to the Internet and open up the VPN client to establish a secure connection. This process is known as tunneling, because the user essentially digs a tunnel through Internet traffic to lead directly from the remote site to the private network. The data that the user sends is encrypted by the client, and any encrypted packets that are received are decrypted and presented to the user in a readable format.
Home-based Internet connections with a VPN client connection can allow people to work from home on secure or confidential materials. The encryption secures any data exchanged over the connection. Telecommuting might be encouraged in some workplaces to allow workers to set their own hours, cut down on the environmental costs of long commutes or feel more comfortable at home while working on long, complex projects. A VPN client connection also can be useful while traveling, because it allows an employee to connect securely from any Internet access point.
College students, academic researchers and people in similar positions also can use a VPN client connection to access a closed intranet. Colleges and universities typically provide VPN clients free of charge, along with installation instructions for students who need them. Students can check in from home or on the road when they travel and can exchange any kind of data, including video and audio, for secure teleconferencing over the VPN client connection.
If a VPN client connection is available and recommended, it might be possible to get assistance with configuring a computer to connect. Information technology (IT) staff members can configure a laptop and might perform a security check to look for any issues that might compromise the connection. They also can provide detailed instructions on how to handle a home desktop. These personnel exercise caution in configuring computers to reduce the risk of introducing viruses and other problems into the local area network; any external connections could be a source of a problem.