Illustration of VPN servers in USA and Germany

What is a VPN for business? A VPN for business can provide secure access to your internal business network for your remote employees.

What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

All consumers and businesses use public internet access at one point or another. This network keeps us connected and provides a common space to communicate and engage in commerce.

The Internet, however, is public—that is, internet traffic is inherently out in the open, potentially subject to observation. That fact isn't just a security threat; internet service providers, platform developers, and other businesses all have mechanisms in place to read and monitor public internet traffic.

Encryption is one solution, but it doesn't address concerns about locality or access. Instead, many businesses turn to VPNs to create a secure tunnel between users and endpoints.

The basic function of a business VPN is to allow users to hide their IP address through server redirection. Consider the following internet connection model:

  • User A attempts to load information from Website B.
  • User A's computer sends information to the servers storing Website B. This information includes the IP address of the user's computer.
  • The server for Website B returns the requested information.

This transaction is entirely public. Even with encryption, the server knows the user's IP address, and outside users know that a transaction took place even if encryption is present.

Now, consider this connection model:

  • User A attempts to load information from Website B through a VPN. Website B is a resource on a private business intranet.
  • The VPN creates an encrypted tunnel that obfuscates data while it travels over public networks.
  • The VPN also obfuscates originating and receiving metadata, including IP addresses, through encryption and server routing.
  • The request from User A, encrypted and routed through a private server network, accesses the resource and receives the information.

The private business intranet is essentially extended through the VPN in the second case. For example, suppose a private network only allows users to access resources from a local office. In that case, they can use a VPN to extend that capability to remote workers as if they were in the office while still using public internet connections.

Why are VPNs important for businesses?

VPNs have become a common tool for many companies throughout the world for various reasons. These reasons tie to the modern realities of networked business and commerce, especially with diverse and distributed consumer and employee populations.

Some of the benefits include the following:

  • Allowing Remote Access: A VPN can provide secure and private access to resources on a private business network or local area network while maintaining privacy. In this case, the user isn't simply using public encrypted tools over a public network but a virtualized secure tunnel that makes their device function as if it was within the network's perimeter. This provides additional security and can work with other layers of protection like identity and access management.
  • Secure Endpoint Devices: VPNs can also help streamline network security for a heterogeneous set of connecting devices. Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and computers can access the network following the same security requirements.
  • Security and Compliance: Networked data transfer and access all fall under cybersecurity and compliance regulations, depending on the industry. A VPN is often a solution to protect data and ensure that transfers remain compliant.
  • Enterprise Analytics: Many VPN solutions will include tracking user activity and system events. This kind of data collection can help with securing the network. Still, it can also support important analytics that help your organization understand how the network is used and optimize performance.

What are the components of a VPN?

Business VPNs can fall under two distinct categories:

  • Remote VPNs: We think of remote VPNs when we think of a typical network—remote computers connecting through VPN tunnels to private networks.
  • Site-to-Site VPNs: These tunnels connect two VPNs for communication purposes and help larger organizations avoid more expensive multiprotocol label switching circuits in favor of common internet connections.

Both VPNs, however, have a similar set of components:

  • The Transit Network, or the channel through which traffic moves. Most commonly, public internet connections.
  • Tunneling Protocols are used to create encrypted, encapsulated connections between devices and the private network. These protocols include the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol and the Layer Two Transport Protocol. These protocols use certificates, end-to-end encryption, and hardware-level encryption to secure systems and devices.
  • The Tunnel, or protected connection encapsulating the data.
  • Authentication and Authorization, or additional IAM security to force users to verify their identity to the system. This can include passwords, PINs, tokens, and biometric authentication.
  • Name Server Allocation, to manage local IP addresses for the internal network.

In combination, these technologies effectively create a secure wide area network that can support distributed workforces.

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What are the costs of business VPN?

While VPNs bring significant benefits to a business, they aren't without some challenges and drawbacks that an enterprise must consider. While none of these are essentially deal breakers in implementing a VPN solution, they should play a role in decision-making.

  • Performance and Speed: While VPNs are secure, they add some overhead to networked communication. Some VPN connections can be slower than their public counterparts between tunneling, encryption, and security. This can affect transferring large files or streaming video.
  • Connection Limitations: VPNs are typically managed by localized hardware that can only accept so many connections (much like a router), limiting how many users can connect. Likewise, scaling these devices can be costly without a clear plan.
  • Device Management: While different devices can connect to VPNs, their certificate-based nature means that these devices must usually fall under organizational management, which calls for extensive IT and device risk management.
  • Mobile Compatibility: While mobile devices can connect to VPNs, they often aren't optimized for them. Furthermore, many mobile apps aren't actually created for VPN access.

Work with Meter for network design

VPN access will rely on secure and high-performance local business networks — networks that can handle multiple connections, high levels of security, and significant broadband demands.

To help your organization manage a robust local network, including the hardware and software required to maintain it, trust Meter. To learn more about optimizing your local business network, request a network design. Or, if you're on the market for high-speed business internet, use the Meter Connect local ISP directory.

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