A virtual private network (VPN) concentrator is a type of networking device. It lets you create secure VPN connections and deliver messages between VPN nodes. As such, it is essentially a router but is built specifically for creating and managing VPN communication infrastructures.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in VPN use among businesses. But not all organizations have the same number of users. And while a VPN router may be suitable for small businesses, it may not be able to handle the needs of large enterprises. That’s where a VPN concentrator comes in handy.
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VPN concentrator usage is ideal for medium-sized and large enterprises that allow remote work. Unlike a normal VPN router, a VPN concentrator can serve up to thousands of users at the same time. It can create VPN tunnels for each employee, securing their connections to the companies’ network no matter where they are.
What Does a VPN Concentrator Do?
A VPN concentrator typically does what a VPN router does but on a much larger scale. It is, therefore, ideal for large enterprises or those that employ many salespeople or other people who travel to various parts of the world regularly.
VPN concentrators are designed to establish and configure communication tunnels, authenticate users, assign tunnel or IP addresses to users, encrypt and decrypt data, and ensure end-to-end data delivery.
A VPN concentrator or router can protect against man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks that rely on listening in to and hijacking connections to a target company’s network. You’ve often been warned not to connect to your corporate network using public Wi-Fi for sure. And that’s because cyber attackers can easily sniff login credentials or intercept emails from publicly accessible routers as these may not even require passwords to join. In short, they are not protected at the same level as corporate or even your home router, which require user authentication at the very least.
How Does a VPN Concentrator Work?
When you’re outside your office but need to work securely as if you’re physically there, as when you’re sending an email that contains sensitive data to a client, for instance, you’d need a VPN (router or concentrator) to encrypt the message for utmost security.
A VPN concentrator automatically assigns a secure IP address for your computer, encrypts your message, and decrypts it when it reaches your intended destination.
Here’s a brief video showing how it works in the most basic terms:
VPN Concentrator Encryption Protocol Types
To secure communications, a VPN concentrator uses at least two encryption protocols described in more detail below.
Most VPN concentrators use Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) to secure communications. The protocol is extremely secure and effective but it requires the installation of a VPN connection software on all of an organization’s computers. It is most applicable to a company with a head and several branch offices.
Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption is another option. This protocol uses the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) Port 443, which is compatible with most browsers. It doesn’t require users to install and configure software on their computers or devices. It also gives them additional freedom to access their corporate network from any remote location but they can only connect with web-based systems (those that can be accessed over the Internet so intranet-only or internal devices are a no-no).
If you’re a business owner and are thinking of obtaining the right VPN device for your employees’ use, you can opt for either a VPN router or a VPN concentrator. It mostly depends on how many users you have. That doesn’t mean, though, that VPN concentrators are only for large enterprises. If your company is small but you want better performance and security, you can also opt for a VPN concentrator.