VPN Issues? Here’s What You Need to Know
A VPN tunnel (often simply referred to as a VPN, or virtual private network) is an encrypted connection between your computer or mobile device and the wider internet. Since your connection is encrypted, nobody along the VPN tunnel is able to intercept, monitor, or alter your communications. Companies often use VPNs to connect remote personnel to private networks to access company resources.
Sounds smart, right? It is, and establishing one for your company can go a long way toward helping you protect your data. But VPNs, like most things, don’t always work the way you expect them to. Here are a few answers to questions you might have about your VPN connection and how to get it working at peak efficiency.
Why can’t I connect to my VPN?
If you’re having trouble connecting to your VPN, try the simplest things first. For example, make sure you’re connected to the internet; if you don’t have an internet connection, the VPN won’t work. Next, double-check your username and password combination. You’d be surprised at how many times just fixing these two basic things helps get you connected and on your way.
If you’ve tried the easy stuff and you’re still not connecting, check to see if the VPN is active on the hub side. Check with your vendor to verify your VPN’s status.
If that looks good, then it’s time to contact the VPN administrator to ensure all settings are good. They’ll likely ask you when the last time was that the connection was working so they can figure out what changed. Then they’ll check things like the IP address configuration, the security policy configuration, any access control lists, network address translation settings, and routing information and resolve anything that looks like it’s causing problems.
Why is my VPN traffic so slow?
You may notice that your VPN traffic is a little slower than your normal internet browsing. That’s because the data is encrypted by the VPN before it traverses the internet. This minor decrease in speed is a necessary evil to get that secure connection. That said, if you are experiencing a significant slowdown, one or more of the following could be the culprit.
VPN protocol. Intermediate devices that do not allow certain ports or protocols could impact your VPN. In other words, cheap VPNs often use low-quality servers that aren’t designed to handle high volumes of user requests. If you have free or bargain-basement VPN service, it may be time to upgrade.
Wireless connections. Wired connections are much more reliable than wireless connections. When you go wireless, you may not have a stable connection. Adding a VPN to that unstable connection will give you a slow, inefficient experience.
Low internet speeds. If your business has opted for low internet speeds, adding a VPN will definitely slow down your traffic even more. If multiple people need to connect to a VPN frequently, consider purchasing faster speeds for that primary connection.
Frequent connecting and disconnecting. Constantly connecting to and disconnecting from your VPN causes your workstation to purpose resources inefficiently. A simple reboot can usually resolve this issue.
Advanced settings. A network engineer or administrator can change advanced settings to help things run more smoothly. For example, adjusting the Maximum Transmission Unit setting reduces the maximum size of the payload to allow for VPN headers and footers to be added correctly. Each vendor-specific amount is different; refer to their technical documents for details.
How can I optimize VPN traffic?
Your network administrator can optimize VPN traffic in two ways. The first is compression, which reduces bandwidth consumption. Algorithms allow for short segments to be transmitted, helping traffic flow more efficiently across the WAN.
The second is TCP Acceleration, which uses techniques such as windows scaling, and adjusting segment sizes to compensate for poor performance over slow WAN lines.
What kind of VPN should my company be using?
There are two types of VPN tunnels: SSL (secure sockets layer) and IPsec (internet protocol security). SSL is generally used for connecting a single user to the company network. IPsec VPNs can also be used to connect a single user, but they are generally used to connect sites together. Which one is best for you depends on your answers to the following questions.
Do you have remote home users?
Usually, when you have remote home workers that are not accessing tons of resources, an SSL can be the perfect solution. An SSL allows a remote worker access to company file shares and applications as needed.
What kind of resources will these users need to access?
If you have remote home workers that are accessing a lot of resources, like a cardiologist that is accessing personally identifiable information (PII) for example, a dedicated IPsec may be more suitable. That way, the remote worker can push a lot of encrypted information across the tunnel more efficiently than he or she would with an SSL.
How many users are at your remote site?
Another instance in which an IPsec VPN tunnel is recommended is when you have a remote site that needs to facilitate many user connections. Instead of having everyone connecting to SSL VPN, you can better manage the virtual connections with an on-site appliance, then make connections back to the private network.
What’s the difference between using a native VPN client and the browser?
Native VPN clients allow you to determine which traffic you want to go over the VPN and what can go out over the normal unencrypted internet connection. That means both your VPN and your regular internet are working at optimum efficiency.
However, many VPN vendors do not offer native VPN client applications, which forces you to use the browser. While the browser is fine in most cases, you lose the flexibility of being able to direct traffic within your network. You also may not be able to run all the applications you need–like remote desktop, for example–if the browser doesn’t support certain protocols.