In the current financial market, companies are opening up multiple branches all over the world. The main reason for this is to increase their market share and to try and outdo their main competitors. As a result, it is not always possible for employees to report to the main office. Furthermore, setting up multiple offices is a costly venture and there is a need to have a way to access the central office remotely. This is where the invention of the Virtual Private Network made things a lot easier.

People working remotely can now extend their private network to access resources from the shared public network of the company they work for, while being guaranteed secure and reliable communication. People can log into the VPN from anywhere in the world and access the resources as if they are in the main office. The invention of a VPN concentrator made it easier to manage multiple VPNs.

Before VPN concentrators come about, different businesses deployed multiple routers to manage their VPNs. It proved a very costly investment, bearing in mind that routers are not cheap.

So what is a VPN concentrator? Very few people know the answer to this question, and many confuse it with site-to-site VPN, which is used to connect multiple office networks to the mainframe database. As a result, you will not be surprised to see different organizations leaving their sensitive information in open systems. The best way to describe it: an advanced router that is put in place to handle multiple secure and remote connections (VPN tunnels).

In other words, it is a device designed specifically to create and manage VPN communication infrastructures. It boosts the security capabilities of the VPN router by adding some advanced data and network security. The ability of a VPN concentrator to create and manage a large number of VPN tunnels makes it popular in today’s business world.

Cisco VPN concentrators

Cisco is a company that produces many different VPN concentrators. If you choose a Cisco’s product, you are guaranteed cost-effective, flexible and reliable remote access regardless of your location. Cisco VPN concentrators have a system log feature which enables businesses to forward log messages to an in-built event tracker. As a result, you are able to configure a dashboard to manage alerts and reports.

Cisco Meraki VPN concentrator

This is one of the most popular concentrators. It is very effective for large companies that require a very large network of remote employees and clients. If your VPNs require little complexity to deploy, this is the perfect option. However, this concentrator is weak when using LT2P over IPSec during user-to-site VPN configuration.

ShoreTel VPN concentrator

This is another popular option that is perfect if you want to include a remote IP telephony network to your large network. It creates a secure connection for IP phones and thus enables technicians to implement a flexible and secure remote work policy. Remote users have a ShoreTel IP gadget which they connect to a broadband router. The router then enables them to connect to the ShoreTel VPN Concentrator.

Why invest in a VPN concentrator

When accessing remote networks using remote desktop access software, there is always a vulnerability (weak point) where external attacks can be made. Hackers can access the network’s static IP if they manage to get the Desktop VPN logins. As a result, they will then be able to crack the password and break through without being detected. Many medium and small businesses lose a lot of money this way, annually.

Therefore, investing in a good VPN concentrator is worthwhile. They ensure that the company’s LAN remains secure from external threats and that only encrypted data flows over a secure tunnel. Currently, they are fairly expensive. For example, for one of the cheapest ones, such as the Netgear ProSafe SSL VPN concentrator, you can expect to pay about $340. This is not the best one out there, but it does the job.

Uses

In simple terms, a VPN concentrator acts as a connection point for remote users. For you to be able to access it, you must first initiate the VPN client so that you can get connected to the internet. The signal will now flow to the concentrator through the encrypted tunnel. The concentrator authenticates it and then protects it from RAS exposure as it flows over the public network.

VPN concentrator vs VPN client

It is important to note that while both VPN concentrators and VPN client routers do similar things, they are slightly different and should not be confused. A VPN concentrator is used mostly by businesses which deal with millions of clients from all over the world. On the other hand, a VPN router enables you to have just a few remote connections, so are popular for small scale use.

VPN concentrators vs site-to-site VPNs

It is important to know that site-to-site VPNs are different from concentrators. Site-to-site VPNs are good if you want to connect to a maximum of 5 sites operating in the nearby location. Having one will save you the cost of having multiple routers to manage different sites. However, if you are dealing with different hosts accessing resources from more than a handful of different locations, a VPN concentrator is the best solution.

VPN concentrator SSL vs IPsec encryption

For web-based applications, all the VPN concentrators utilize VPN encryption using either IPSec or SSL. The use of IPSec requires you to have a client software in order to connect the VPN tunnel. It has a high-security and encryption level and provides more configurable options. However, IPSec is only applicable to fix remote access since its connection point blocks any mobile connection.

SSL is popular with a scenario where multiple remote users are connecting using different gadgets (both static and dynamic). It is easier to connect as there is no need for end-user configuration since it has standard web encryption. However, SSL may not be compatible with some of operating systems and applications. As a result, not all gadgets will connect.

Pros & Cons

The introduction of a VPN concentrator in a network improves the security by adding an extra layer of encryption. Data traveling from the remote client to the end office is protected by end-to-end encryption. With VPN concentrators, you are not limited to the number of remote hosts which can connect to the main office. As a result, it enables companies to grow and maximize their profit.

The main drawback of it is that they are a bit expensive. You can find a cheap concentrator, but you end up paying a lot of configuration fees. Some of the concentrators are also complex to troubleshoot and thus require a competent technician to man them. This means that the company will have to spend more money.