How Does a VLAN Differ from VPN?
By Nick Anderson 4 minutes
Networks are defined by the implementation and what they ultimately achieve. From topologies to LAN types, a network’s architecture defines how users will interact with each other. VLAN and VPN are two implementations that allow users to communicate privately and often remotely.
Both terms have the word ‘virtual’ in them, which may cause some confusion, and even give off the impression they are used interchangeably. However, we’ll explain to you what makes VLAN and VPN different.
What is a VLAN?
LAN (Local Area Network) is a group of connected devices that form a network. A central server controls the flow of information and depending on the type of topology, a user can communicate with any other user on the network. An example of LAN is the computers in a school or workstations in an office.
VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network) builds on the same but allows network administrators to segregate users into groups when they are not physically on the same local network. A medium-sized company has multiple departments and even multiple teams within the same department. Often, cross-team collaboration is required for a project. The teams need a way to stay in touch and share and keep track of the progress. It would be arduous to move the two teams close to each other or on the same floor to communicate easily.
It allows IT administrators to use existing infrastructure (i-e cabling and routers) to group people who may have to collaborate in privacy. VLAN does not involve the internet because it’s based on the intranet. A finance department and its computers can be group virtually so that no one else on the LAN can access files and devices on that VLAN.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is different from a VLAN despite sharing the nature of virtualization. It creates a private network over the internet, which is a public space and accessible by anyone.
Using a similar example, if there are two teams in the same company but located remotely, then a VPN will allow both these teams to share a private environment by using the internet to communicate. Because the internet is a public space, the VPN allows IT administrators to set up privileged access. It means that only people designated to use the private network will be allowed to join using credentials to authenticate themselves first.
Different branches of the same company can establish a private network of the internet to communicate and share resources like printers or other devices. So, to recap, a VLAN segregates users on a LAN for private communication. In contrast, VPN uses the internet as the bridge to connect users who are not physically in the same location.
Another fundamental difference is that VPN uses encryption for data security. Encryption is the process of converting plain-text into cipher-text. It makes the contents of your messages unreadable to anyone else who does not have the special key to decrypt it.
Encryption makes VPN incredibly useful and pivotal for sharing sensitive information over the internet.
Should You Choose VPN Over VLAN?
As both are different, it depends entirely on your requirements. VLAN is easiest to implement for users connected to the same LAN, whereas a VPN allows remote logins for access to resources.
VLAN doesn’t encrypt internet traffic like a VPN does, making it susceptible to eavesdropping if the connection is unsecure.
At FastestVPN, we recommend using a VPN for accessing the internet. It provides the security to prevent eavesdropping and privacy from keeping surveillance at bay. But FastestVPN, as a solution, is different from the VPN implementation that runs inside a corporate environment. Instead of connecting to a remote server that acts as a proxy for your internet traffic, the VPN is set up to let remote users access the company’s network using the internet.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, it forced companies to observe social distancing and mandate a work-from-home policy. It is particularly challenging because employees need to interact to continue working smoothly. A company usually has a fileserver that employees use to share and maintain files. But, such resources will not be accessible while working from home because your network exists outside the company’s network.
This is where VPN helped professionals worldwide to maintain a smooth working order. Nearly every company working remotely right now is using a VPN for remote collaboration.
The major star of VPN is encryption. As the internet is open to everyone, encryption ensures that your data is not tampered with or surveilled as it traverses through various hops on the internet. It is highly recommended to keep your privacy safe by connecting to a VPN when accessing unsecure networks.