What You Need to Know about VPN Protocols

What is VPN Protocol?

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are a business necessity today in order to secure and protect important data, like financial records, customer information, and other proprietary data. To create that privacy and security, business VPNs employ protocols, or a set of rules related to encryption and transmission of data between your devices and VPN servers. In other words, VPN protocols dictate how data is treated and routed across your business VPN network.

There are a number of VPN protocols, and some, like Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Transport Security Layer (TLS) are familiar. They are employed whenever you shop online, and see HTTPS in a browser address bar.

Other VPN protocols include:

  • OpenVPN
  • SoftEther
  • Internet Protocol Security (IPSec)
  • Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol (L2TP)
  • Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP)
  • Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2)
  • Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)

Why are There So Many VPN Protocols?

Good question. The answer is because each is programmed, or built differently. Some VPN protocols are built for speed, others sacrifice some speed for better security and privacy, and some only do one thing, like tunneling. As such, it is common for more than one VPN protocol to be used.

For example, L2TP is designed to only tunnel between connection points. Tunneling is basically using the public Internet to transmit data to a private network. Think of it like having a secret tunnel into a mountain, but a secret tunnel others can find, too, when driving by. To hide the VPN tunnel and its contents, you need IPSec, which encrypts data. With L2TP and IPSec, your tunnel and its contents are now hidden, and information can move securely.

OpenVPN, which is an open source VPN protocol, bundles a variety of VPN protocols, including the SSL VPN protocol, TLS, IPSec, and the OpenSSL library to support numerous encryption methods. If you run your business on Windows, however, you’ll need to install third-party software to use OpenVPN.

Speaking of Windows, VPN protocols can also be platform-specific. SSTP, for example, works only with Windows. If you use iPhones or iPads in your business, you won’t be able to access your VPN server from them.

IKEv2, however, is supported by Windows, iOS devices, and BlackBerry. Like L2TP, it is a tunneling protocol and often paired with the IPSec VPN protocol. It works well with mobile devices, especially since it automatically re-connects to your VPN  client when connection is lost, but is hard to implement at the server level.

Making the Case for MPLS

As technology continues to evolve and VPN protocols try to keep pace, how can you keep your business data secure? The simple answer is by using Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).

Generally, as data moves across the Internet, it “hops” from one router to the next until it reaches its destination, like the conference room TV. How that data is routed is decided at each hop through an exhaustive lookup table, which can produce lag, or that half second where someone’s lips move but there’s no sound.

MPLS removes this process by handling data at the packet level. It assigns a label to each packet, and encrypts and transmits data accordingly. In other words, as soon as data moves to the door to your mountain tunnel, its immediately sucked in, tagged, concealed, and securely whisked away to its destination. No additional “hops” or routes needed for your business VPN traffic so when your client appears on the conference room TV and speaks, you hear it.

Another benefit of using MPLS over other VPN protocols is that it is a business-grade service that doesn’t use the public networkso it isn’t subject to the same risks, like denial-of-service attacks (DDoS). Why? Because business VPNs using MPLS have private addresses. Once data is sucked in through the door to your tunnel and tagged, it can then move around inside your mountain, and through any other tunnels you’ve built to other mountains, like other offices or remote employees. MPLS also works with mobile devices.

Basically, MPLS puts a forcefield around you data as it moves around your business.

Role of MPLS in Evolving Networks

Good bet you started as a small business, and grew into the business you are today. As your business continues to grow, so do your data needs, and your business internet security needs to scale with you. Using MPLS as your VPN protocol makes that possible.

Whether you transition to a fully remote workforce, use videoing conferencing with clients for live demos, or open up offices or warehouses in other cities or countries, MPLS keeps all of your business data secure as it moves around your Virtual Private Network.

Examples of Medium Businesses Benefiting from MPLS

Hospitals, law firms, accountants, companies with remote access or distributed workforces, and companies with multiple offices are just some of the types of businesses that benefit from MPLS. Hospitals, law firms, and accountants often deal with sensitive information that must be accessed securely. Distributed workforces can cut down on overhead since office space isn’t needed, but everyone still must be able to securely access company data, just like employees and contractors in multiple offices.

Businesses that manage inventory, or operate online stores, also benefit from MPLS. Such businesses need to scale, and scale quickly, while keeping customer data, product details, internal communications, and other business information secure.

Regardless of your business and its location, a business VPN with MPLS takes the worry out of accessing and sharing data today, and in the future.