What is a VPN concentrator and who needs one?

What is a VPN concentrator and who needs one?

The history of the VPN (Virtual Private Network) technology is closely related to Microsoft’s PPTP and goes back to 1996. Tunneling protocols already existed, as, without them, the data packet moving from a network to another wouldn’t be possible. Therefore, the PPTP didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it brought along a more secure and private way of communication.

With the Internet expanding and cybersecurity blooming, VPN technology transformed into one of the most powerful and easy-to-use tools for enhanced online security and privacy.

Large corporations spotted the potential behind this technology, and the VPN became popular among businesses from the very beginning. Due to the market’s constant request for advanced security solutions, another option came to life – the VPN concentrator.

What is a VPN concentrator, who uses a VPN concentrator, and why is a VPN concentrator different than a VPN router – are just some of the questions I will answer in this article.

So, CONCENTRATE and stick with me!

The Transylvanian explanation

For a while now, the MegaBats are terrorizing the pacifist bat colonies. Moving to my castle was only a temporary solution. As soon as TomBat and his bat gang decided to return to their cave, the MegaBats started to bother them again. Not only do the little evil creatures bully their neighbors but, since the winter is not showing signs of leaving and their food supply is going low, the MegaBats started some attacks against TomBat’s colony, meant for stealing their food.

The intruders conducted some successful missions, and if they continue to do so, TomBat and his neighbors are at risk of remaining without food and starve.

Since the aftermath is not in the good bats’ favor, they needed to come up with a fast and efficient solution to keep the MegaBats away from their cave.

After a bat-council meeting, the final decision was to install not only one but a bunch of surveillance cameras around the entrance of their cave, placed in different positions and angles, so they can spot the MegaBats ready to attack, spying around the corners. In this way, they can gather forces and guard the main entrance of the cave, preventing MegaBats from entering and reaching the supply pantry.

The investment in the surveillance system proved to be the right decision as it helped the bats to keep away the mighty intruders.

When it comes to real-life challenges, a solution that would help more than one individual keep away mighty hackers and online threats would be a VPN concentrator.

How?“, you may ask! This is how!

What is a VPN concentrator?

A VPN uses three main components (VPN server, VPN protocol, encryption) to create a private connection over a public network. Such a connection is also known as a VPN tunnel.

Anytime a VPN user enables a VPN connection, the VPN components combine and securely transport the data over the Internet.

VPNs meet the most stringent criteria in terms of online security, privacy, and anonymity. Therefore, they are a must-have for most businesses who operate multiple systems connected via a network. Enjoying a VPN’s perks implies that each remote employee has a VPN installed on his device. This condition translates into costs directly proportional to the organization’s dimension and the number of employees. Hence, a way to overcome this inconvenience but still enjoy the benefits of a VPN was mandatory. The answer to all of the pains is a VPN concentrator.

The VPN concentrator is a networking device capable of establishing multiple VPN connections and managing plenty of VPN connections remotely.

This solution for extensive security can manage VPN connections on a multi-user level in a “compact” and secure manner, making it the perfect solution for private and encrypted communication.

At this very point, you may think that there’s not much difference between a VPN concentrator and a VPN router when, in reality, there is more than one distinction.

Stick with me, and you’ll learn why I support this statement!

Why is a VPN concentrator useful?

If you’re curious what does a VPN concentrator do, then you must know that it puts the light on the same benefits as a regular VPN, and it also brings its pluses. 

Here are a few of the most important things a VPN concentrator accomplishes:

  • Encrypt and decrypt the connection from an end to another
  • Multiple VPN tunnels in a single corporate network
  • New IP address for all users
  • Manages users’ authentication and cryptographic keys

How does a VPN concentrator work?

A VPN concentrator is a device designed to ensure and facilitate communication between different VPN nodes, that uses either IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) or SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption protocols. This advanced solution helps remote users access a network and, implicitly, access files on certain computers.

Since it grants access to users located in different parts of the world, it is the most ready-to-hand solution for big companies that have to find a way to allow their remote workers to access the company’s resources so they can stick to their work and complete their daily tasks.

Looking again at things from this perspective, we may assume that a VPN concentrator is more like a VPN router.

VPN concentrators are often confused with site-to-site VPN services. The difference is that site-to-site VPNs have a fixed location limitation. They allow users to enable a connection only between fixed points (several offices, office-home office, etc.).

An explanation of how does a VPN concentrator work

VPN concentrators are picked and set up based on a series of important factors – the type and the scale of the organization, the type of files that are about to be accessed and shared over the secured connection, and, of course, the security standards the company wants to achieve.

VPN concentrator vs. VPN router

VPN concentrators and VPN routers are similar devices (VPN hardware) that operate in the same way but are differentiated by a series of, let’s say, features.

The most important thing that makes these solutions so different is the number of simultaneous connections that can be established. If a VPN router has some limitations, you must know that a VPN concentrator can support thousands of users connected at the same time.

Yet, we have our first important conclusions: for meeting your corporate needs, you shall consider a VPN concentrator, and for multiple connections at home, go for a VPN router.

More connections bring along increased costs. A VPN concentrator is much more expensive than a router, that’s why not many people are just falling all over themselves to buy such an advanced and expensive device.

VPN concentrator encryption protocols

IPsec encryption

Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is a secure network used by VPNs to facilitate secure and encrypted communication on the Internet. VPN concentrator providers consider IPsec as a good option since it is a secure and effective protocol. Through IPsec, apps are able to run without being aware that the client is coming from outside the network. The only disadvantage to his option is that, for enhanced security, additional tools should be configured and used to decrease the risks. Due to its working mode, an IPsec connection is the best way for connecting branch offices with the headquarter.

SSL encryption

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the successor of TLS (Transport Layer Security) and is a protocol meant for establishing encrypted and authenticated connections between computers on the same network.

SSL VPN clients are installed into the browsers or operating systems, granting access based on a username and password.  

SSL VPNs eliminate the need to manually configure each end-to-end device. The downside of an SSL connection is that only web-based applications will work, therefore, users will not have access to shared resources like printers, or similar resources that they can access via an IPsec connection.

Which is the best VPN concentrator?

Folks, I need to spill the beans. I have never used or configured a VPN concentrator. Since some of you may be curious about which is the best VPN concentrator, I have decided to invest some time in researching which would be the best solution from the available options. 

After digging into the subject, the award goes to Cisco.

Cisco Meraki changes the way companies manage their VPN network, its VPN concentrators provide comprehensive security in a single box, are easy to deploy, and bring an impressive list of features, like the ones presented below:

  • Intrusion prevention
  • Auto VPN
  • Next-gen firewall
  • Content filtering
  • Malware protection
  • High availability & failover
  • Centralized management

VPN concentrator FAQ

Is it a VPN concentrator software or a device?

A VPN concentrator is a device able to create multiple VPN tunnels, in order to provide enhanced privacy and secure connections to its users.

Do I need a VPN concentrator?

Before reaching the VPN concentrator subject, you must know that a simple VPN is a must for every internet user concerned about his online security and privacy. To make the right decision whether or not to get a VPN concentrator, you should set your online goals first. If you’re looking to secure and encrypt multiple connections at the same time, but you’re a small business, then you should go for a VPN router.

Is a VPN concentrator a VPN router?

It is super easy to confuse these two devices. A VPN concentrator and a VPN router work somehow the same but, in reality, a VPN concentrator extends the capabilities and functionality of a VPN router.

Who uses VPN concentrators?

VPN concentrators are mainly used by huge corporations who look to provide secure remote access to the company’s resources to all their employees, as VPN concentrators can manage and support thousands of VPN connections simultaneously.

Are VPN concentrators expensive?

VPN concentrators can be pricy, depending on the features they put on the table and the number of supported connections. One this is for sure – a VPN concentrator is much more expensive than a VPN router.

VPN concentrator – let’s concentrate on conclusions!

It is safe to say that VPNs come in lots of forms. Depending on the VPN provider you choose, you can use advanced VPN features like the VPN Killswitch, split tunneling, Smart DNS, state-of-the-art VPN protocols like Wireguard or OpenVPN, ultra-fast connections, and ready-to-use VPN servers designed for gaming, torrenting, streaming, online freedom or double protection. We can enjoy all these perks bundled with other benefits, with just a click, anytime we want to secure our internet access and sensitive information.

The sensitive information comes into question when we speak about the online tasks we perform at work as well. Our employer should pay as much attention to these details as we are paying as individuals. Can you imagine what an effort would be for a multinational corporation to buy and provide NordVPN or ExpressVPN client software for each employee? To overcome this difficulty, organizations have a great option at their fingertips – the VPN concentrator.

This device comes as a compact solution for managing thousands of VPN connections and securing all the information and traffic generated by employees based in different locations. Since its main purpose is to serve companies’ need for security and privacy, this powerful device is not suitable for regular internet users. For folks looking to secure multiple devices at the same time, a VPN router like Vilfo would do the job really, really well.

Are you curious what’s the other thing that goes great with online security? My bi-monthly newsletter you must subscribe to by using the form below. It will help you stay up to date with the latest tech news, and it will also make a Transylvanian-bat happy! It’s a win-win situation, trust me!

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