What is the Future Outlook of VPNs?
By Paul Liu
Monday, November 25th, 2013
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a networking framework which provides security and remote access capabilities to its users. VPNs made their appearance in the last decade of the twentieth century but they became popular only after the broadband technology went mainstream. Despite its name, a VPN is not a truly private network; it is in fact a kind of Wide Area Network (WAN) with the capability to extend its functionality through a public or shared network. In this informative article, let us take a peek into the wonderful world of VPNs and try to understand why they are becoming more and more popular with each passing day.
VPNs were initially used by large corporations having operations in multiple cities or countries. By connecting to the company’s VPN network, the employees were able to communicate and work seamlessly from anywhere and access their emails and data in a secure way. As for the organization, the use of VPNs resulted in significant savings since the company no longer had to buy expensive leased lines or pay for unwanted long distance telephone calls.
As the cost of setting up a VPN service went down, many vendors started offering VPN solutions for small businesses and individual web users. However, during the first few years, the penetration of VPNs among general public was extremely low since very few people were aware of the security and censorship risks that prevailed on the internet and the cost of VPN subscription was still on the higher side.
Current Scenarios and Applications
In the last few years, the use of VPN among average internet users has gone up drastically due to several reasons:
1) Security Concerns – People are now a lot more aware of the privacy and security risks on the web and they want to keep their personal data safe from government and institutional surveillance. Additionally, for people who connect to the internet primarily through low security Wi-Fi hotspots, VPNs offer an easy way to protect their sensitive data and identity from cyber criminals.
2) On-Demand Content Availability – A lot of internet users now watch TV shows and movies online and these people want instant access to their favorite content even while travelling. Since the premium streaming services are available only from certain countries, people are now using VPNs to change their IP address and access their favorite content from anywhere.
3) Firewalls And Censorship – For people who support freedom of speech online, VPNs offer an easy way to bypass the firewalls and censorship implemented by ISPs, organizations and educational institutions.
4) Cost – The cost of VPN subscription has gone down substantially which has also contributed to their popularity.
As far as the use of VPNs among businesses is concerned, a lot of smaller organizations have now started using them for their day-to-day operations. Some companies have even combined cloud based services along with VPNs to set up 100% virtual organizations with zero physical presence.
The Outlook of VPNs is Bright
Most governments are tightening their grip on the internet and are increasingly involved in censoring information and monitoring the online activities of their citizens and this is expected to push up the demand for VPN services. Case in point, the number of VPN subscriptions went up after the details of the NSA Prism program became public and a similar outcome cannot be ruled out if more surveillance programs are announced and implemented.
The explosive growth of On-Demand services and Wireless technology is also likely to contribute to the growth of VPN services. While Wi-Fi hotspots are everywhere in developed countries, they are not that common in developing countries. Likewise, there are only a handful of On-Demand services available for subscribers in Latin America, Asia and Africa. As both these technologies gain popularity in developing countries, people are likely to use security solutions like VPNs to secure their data and access On-Demand services from anywhere.
The demand for VPNs will also go up as more and more people start connecting to the internet through mobile devices. The mobile internet is still in its infancy and as its use grows, we should see a spike in demand for mobile VPNs. As you might be aware, the technology behind a mobile VPN is drastically different from that of a traditional VPN since mobile VPNs have to deal with frequent changes in networking and connection parameters as well as handle outages and battery related issues.
Additionally, the security and privacy needs for mobile devices are quite different since mobile systems are designed around apps and each app connecting to the internet represents a potential security challenge. Since a VPN secures all the applications that connect to the internet through a tunnel, it is the perfect security solution for mobile users. It is worthwhile noting that the mobile VPNs still rely on older VPN protocols like SSL, PPTP and IPSec that were primarily designed for computers. However, as the mobile and networking technologies evolve, it is possible that we may see the emergence of new VPN protocols designed entirely for mobile systems.
Finally, we also need to look at the impact of cloud services on VPNs. A lot of small businesses are opting for cloud services offered by the likes of Amazon and Google in place of VPNs and this is certainly a worrying sign for VPN companies that cater to businesses. To reverse the trend, some VPN companies have begun to offer Cloud storage as a part of their VPN plans so that customers can get the best of both worlds. In addition, some VPN providers are also taking advantage of cloud and Peer-To-Peer technologies to offer Cloud and P2P based VPN services.
The future of VPNs certainly looks promising and exciting. While we may not be able to predict the next big change in the world of networking and VPNs, it is certain that VPNs would continue to defend the privacy and security online and make the internet a more open place that is free of restrictions and borders.