A lot of questions must be circling through your mind as soon as you read the title. And we’ll try to answer most of them in the simplest way possible in this post. Before diving into what VPN encryption is, let’s start by defining what a VPN is.

What Is a VPN?

A VPN is simply a network that appears private even if it is publicly accessible. What does that mean? You can access your company’s VPN even if you’re outside your office. But instead of directly connecting to your office network, you pass through an additional layer of security by logging in with your unique credentials to a VPN portal. The VPN portal is only known to company employees, and without the correct set of login credentials, outsiders can’t access the corporate network.

Still in a bit of a bind? Maybe watching the video “What Is a VPN?” can help.

What Is VPN Encryption?

Based on the VPN definition above, VPN encryption is the “lock” that service providers apply to your network to add privacy and security features. Encryption renders confidential data unreadable to users who aren’t authorized to view it (meaning they don’t have the decryption key or requirements). As a result, only authorized VPN users can view files on a VPN-encrypted network, thus ensuring greater security and privacy.

How Does VPN Encryption Work?

A VPN uses encryption to encode and secure data. Anyone else who sees encrypted messages would see complete gibberish unless they have the key to decipher it. VPN clients and servers generate and exchange keys as soon as you connect to your service. That way, the data you send gets automatically encrypted (when sent) and decrypted (when received) when you’re logged into the service. Here’s a diagram that sums the process up:

The effectiveness of a VPN service depends on the encryption algorithm the provider uses. The AES 256-bit cipher is the best encryption algorithm. In fact, the U.S. government and National Security Agency (NSA) use this cipher.

How Do Users View Files Via a VPN?

A user who wants to access office files on a VPN-protected network first needs to access the VPN client. It looks like this:

Log in with your user credentials. You can then choose the location of the VPN server (whose IP address will be visible to all instead of your office network’s) you’d like to use. After that, you can go about your tasks as you would if you were physically in your office. After a day’s work, just disconnect, and you’re done.

What Are the Benefits of Using a VPN?

In a nutshell, using a VPN lets users:

  • Stay secure when using public Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Hide their IP addresses
  • Encrypt their Internet traffic, making browsing more secure and private
  • Ensure their Internet traffic can’t be tracked and recorded for selling by Internet service providers (ISPs), ad brokers, or spies

While some people believe using a VPN translates to enjoying anonymity online, that’s not the case. But VPN usage can keep specific identifiers like your IP address hidden from the public. The table below sums up what a VPN hides and doesn’t hide.

With a VPNWithout a VPN
IP addressHiddenExposed
Browsing dataHiddenExposed
Internet trafficEncryptedExposed
Email address used for signupsExposedExposed
Credit card information used for paymentExposedExposed
Google search history when signed in to accountExposedExposed
Information shared on social mediaExposedExposed
Targeted adsMinimalAll

What Criteria Should You Consider When Choosing a VPN Service?

Tons of VPN services are available but when choosing the best one, consider using the checklist below.

Server coverageWorldwide
VPN protocolOpenVPN, IKEv2, or WireGuard(The multihop feature is a great add-on but not a must.)
VPN server obfuscationPossible
Device supportMust be compatible with all your devices
RAM-only serverMust have if you want all your data to be wiped when you log off
Privacy policyMust indicate the provider doesn’t log your sensitive information without a valid reason or your consent

Do you want to use a VPN service for your network? Given that hackers attack every 39 seconds, maybe it’s time you did, and this post can guide you on making the right choice.