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What Is Cloud VPN? Categories and Classifications

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Cloud VPN: An Overview

A cloud virtual private network (cloud VPN) is a form of technology designed to help users access their organization’s applications, data, and files through a website or an application. Unlike traditional or static VPNs, a cloud VPN provides a secure connection that can be rapidly deployed globally.

Site-to-cloud VPN Architecture

A site-to-cloud VPN architecture enables users to securely access corporate networks and resources remotely, regardless of where they are located. It ensures employees who are traveling, working from home, or working on the go can securely access networks and removes the need for fixed desks in an office. 

What Does a Cloud VPN Offer?

A cloud VPN offers a wide range of benefits for organizations, enabling their employees to work from anywhere at any time securely. Until recently, if an employee was working outside the office, they would have to use a remote VPN to access the information and services they needed from their organization’s servers.

But as organizations increasingly move to the cloud, it makes less sense for them to connect workers back to the VPN based in their physical office. Instead, users can now access cloud-based applications and data, a more convenient method that makes an organization’s architecture more agile, flexible, and scalable.

Better Scalability and Global Accessibility

Cloud VPN services are globally accessible to users, enabling them to use applications, data, and files wherever they are in the world. The cloud VPN server makes services available to users through a cloud platform via the public internet. 

Best User Experience

A VPN cloud service allows users to access private networks at any time and from anywhere securely. This approach helps provide a solid user experience. Employees can access networks and resources the same way they would if they were in the office.

How Does a Cloud VPN Function?

Cloud VPN services enable organizations to bolster networks on the public cloud with accessibility, compliance, and security measures.

Provides Security Measures

A cloud VPN securely connects users using an Internet Protocol security (IPsec) VPN connection. This effectively:

  • Creates an IPsec VPN tunnel that encrypts traffic traveling between their VPN gateway and networks
  • Protects data that travels over the internet 

Enables Remote Access

Users can connect to a cloud VPN from multiple devices and various locations at any time during the day. It ensures employees can securely access corporate networks and share data remotely, even if they do so via public networks.

Supports Encrypted Data Transmission

Cloud VPN tunneling options ensure that all data transmission is encrypted, regardless of the device or location a user accesses it from. This is important so that organizations can guarantee only authorized connections are established by their employees.

How Can Cloud VPNs Serve Organizations?

The accessibility and security features that a cloud VPN provides offers a wide range of advantages and opportunities for organizations.

Boost International Search Rankings

A cloud VPN enables organizations to easily view, manage, and monitor their search and web ranking, as well as adverts. This allows them to monitor website and keyword performance internationally. Companies are able to connect to international servers, enabling them to view their ads across various key markets and monitor keyword performance in different countries.

Stay Ahead of the Competition

Organizations can deliver different content to users based on where in the world they are located. A cloud VPN enables them to customize their website with images and text relevant to specific countries and localize the currency for product and checkout pages. This capability is crucial to increasing sales conversion rates, strengthening user experience, and establishing an organization as a leader ahead of its competition.

Gain Access to VoIP and other Applications

Popular applications and websites, such as Google, Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp, are blocked in some countries, which can be hugely frustrating for end users. A cloud VPN enables them to mask their location and bypass the local censorship laws that block access to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, social media sites, and more.

Support Best BYOD Practices

As the remote working trend grows, users increasingly use their personal phones and laptops for work purposes. Cloud VPN protocols allow employees to encrypt and secure their data and traffic, regardless of where they are located, which is vital to safely deploying bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.

Impart Internationally Acclaimed Quality Assurance

International organizations need to ensure their services are functioning efficiently around the world. Cloud VPN models enable an organization’s quality assurance team to easily amend their geolocation and check on the quality of their products in multiple markets worldwide.

Easily Manage Automatic IP and Whitelisting

A cloud VPN allows organizations to whitelist and segment their employees’ access to certain cloud resources. They can also automatically whitelist specific Internet Protocols (IPs) and assign static IP addresses. As a result, businesses can block potential threats and ensure only trusted individuals can access data, files, networks, or systems.

Classification of Cloud VPNs

Two classifications of cloud VPN models are typically available to organizations.

HA VPNs

A high-availability VPN (HA VPN) enables organizations to securely connect their on-premises network to their VPN cloud via an IPsec VPN connection. When an HA VPN gateway is created, the provider automatically chooses an IP address from a unique address pool, which ensures high availability. As a result, HA VPN, when adequately configured, guarantees a service level availability of 99.99%.

Classic VPNs

Classic VPN gateways, or target VPN gateways, offer organizations a single interface and external IP address alongside dynamic or static routing support tunnels. Classic VPNs provide 99.9% service availability.

Categories of VPN Configurations

Two core categories of VPN configurations can be used to deploy VPNs over public networks.

Site-to-site VPN Configurations

site-to-site VPN configuration enables information to be sent securely across multiple local-area networks (LANs) to multiple office networks. The process routes packets over a secure VPN tunnel between two routers or gateway devices. As a result, two private networks, or sites, can share data across an insecure network without information being intercepted by an unauthorized user.

Site-to-site VPNs increase flexibility and scalability because the gateway VPN only has to support IPsec functionality. This minimizes installation and management costs, frees up memory consumption, and increases processing speed. However, it can increase computing power utilization, which can decrease communication speed.

Site-to-cloud VPN Configurations

A site-to-cloud configuration, or secure client-to-gateway connection, enables a client from an insecure remote location to access internal data located outside an organization’s LAN. A user needs to connect to the VPN to obtain secure access to the LAN, which can typically be managed by configuring a device like a router or a computer operating system. This configuration is often utilized by access VPNs or extranet VPNs.

Cloud VPN Topologies

The following cloud VPN topologies relate to HA VPN classifications.

Two-peer VPN Devices

The two-peer VPN devices topology involves a gateway connecting to two peer devices, each of which has its own interface and external IP address. If a gateway is hardware-based, a second gateway enables it to offer failover and redundancy. This protects an organization against failures and allows them to take a gateway offline to carry out scheduled maintenance or software upgrades.

One-peer VPN Device with Two IP Addresses

This topology involves a single gateway connecting to a peer device with two external IP addresses. The gateway uses two VPN tunnels connecting to the peer device’s external IP addresses.

One-peer VPN Device with One IP Address

In this option, the gateway connects to one peer device with one external IP address. It also uses two tunnels, both of which connect to one IP address.

Using Best Practices with Cloud VPN

There are several best practices that organizations should follow when configuring and planning their cloud VPN implementation:

Handle Routing Issues with Dynamic Routing and Tunnel Configuration Methods

It is recommended to select a cloud VPN gateway that enables dynamic routing, utilizes the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), and supports active/passive tunnel configuration. HA VPNs are also recommended because they offer 99.99% service availability.

Manage Security Concerns

Manage and mitigate potential network security concerns by:

Using Firewall Rules in VPN Gateways

Organizations can establish firewall rules that manage how traffic travels across the cloud VPN.

Apply Strong Pre-shared Keys

Generate strong pre-shared keys to safeguard data that travels through cloud VPN tunneling.

How Fortinet Can Help

Fortinet helps organizations secure their cloud VPN through high-performance encryption and decryption. The FortiGate high-speed crypto VPN enables organizations to securely transport large volumes of information and quickly process data without affecting network security. Meanwhile, FortiClient uses real-time scanning to spot vulnerabilities, protect endpoints from malware, and uses sandbox intelligence to discover and prevent zero-day threats. In this way, an organization can guarantee its VPN solution is fully secure from every angle.