There are many different types of VPN, but you should be familiar with the three main types:
Remote access VPN
Remote access VPNs work by connecting the user to a remote server. This connects them to a private network.
Most commercial VPNs work on this basis. The remote server is the VPN’s own network. The main benefits of a remote access VPN are that they are quick and easy to set up and connect to. They securely encrypt your online browsing data, and they allow you to change IPs to access geo-restricted content.
This makes them ideal for personal use. However, they may not meet the complex needs of large businesses.
A site-to-site VPN is essentially a private network intended to disguise private intranets while allowing users of those secure networks to access each other’s resources.
A site-to-site VPN is useful if you have multiple locations in your business, each with its own local area network (LAN) connected to the wider area network (WAN), or if you have two separate intranets that you need to share files between without explicitly letting users from one intranet access the other.
Site-to-site VPNs are primarily used in large-scale companies. They are complex to implement and don’t offer the same flexibility as remote access VPNs but are the most effective way to secure communications within and between large departments.
With this form of VPN, the user is not connected to the internet via their own ISP but instead connects directly via their VPN provider.
This essentially cuts out the tunnel stage of the VPN journey. So, instead of using the VPN to create an encryption tunnel to disguise the internet connection that already exists, the VPN can automatically encrypt the data before serving it to the user.
This is an increasingly common form of VPN that is proving especially useful for providers of insecure public Wi-Fi. It prevents third-parties from accessing and compromising the network connection, encrypting data all the way to the provider.
It also prevents ISPs from accessing any data that has been left non-encrypted (for whatever reason) and bypasses any restrictions placed on the user’s internet access (for instance, if the country's government puts a curfew on internet access).