Skip to content
Home » How to Set Up a VPN for Remote Access

How to Set Up a VPN for Remote Access

  • by

Introduction

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) has become an essential tool for remote access in our increasingly distributed world. From freelancers working on the road to businesses with a remote workforce, a VPN for remote access allows employees to connect to devices or networks from any internet-connected location.

By encrypting traffic and routing it through intermediary servers, VPN secured remote access provides enhanced security for sensitive data. Users can access internal company data or region-restricted websites from afar through an encrypted tunnel, bypassing visibility from IT departments, ISPs, or cybersnoops. Thanks to easy deployment across devices, modern VPNs constitute must-have software for remote productivity.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything involved with configuring and managing VPN software for remote access, including necessary concepts, setup steps for servers and client devices, and maintenance best practices for optimizing ongoing performance. Follow along to ensure your remote access needs get handled securely.

Understanding VPNs

Before diving into deployment, getting familiar with common VPN terminology and components helps set the stage for how all the pieces interoperate.

A VPN creates a private network routed through the public internet, with encryption applied to keep data secured in transit between the remote client and central server. VPN protocols manage encrypting packets, traversing internet pathways, and rendering a tunnel with access permissions between endpoints.

There exist two primary types of VPN configurations:

Remote Access VPN – This common VPN type connects individual devices like laptops or mobiles to a central VPN server, typically hosted privately on company networks for employee usage. After connecting, the client device gets assigned permissions and a virtual presence on the inside network. Remote access VPN scales easily since clients can utilize public internet infrastructure while only requiring VPN client software.

Site-to-Site VPN – Rather than linking individual client devices, site-to-site VPNs connect entire networks or branch offices together transparently through a permanent tunnel. This approach usually relies on specialized VPN gateway routers but proves more seamless since devices don’t need separate VPN client software configured individually. However, hardware expenses make site-to-site VPN more costly.

For remote workers and mobile productivity, deploying a remote access VPN solution generally works best. The biggest advantage of using a reliable remote access VPN includes:

Secured Remote Network/Data Access – Having remote users connect via VPN allows IT staff to extend internal selected network resources and grants encrypted access from anywhere with an internet connection. Remote desktop administration and database access becomes secure.

Bypass Regional Restrictions – VPN tunnels allow remotes to bypass local internet restrictions that may block access to internal sites or tools. Enhanced privacy also skips visibility from restrictive regimes when accessing informational sites while traveling.

WiFi Security – Free public WiFi access inherently proves risky from a security standpoint without protections. VPN encrypted tunnels keep remote logins, data transmissions secured over open hotspots.

Now that you understand the VPN landscape and remote access use case benefits, let’s explore deployment prerequisites and components.

Pre-Setup Considerations

Taking time upfront to evaluate remote access needs and research suitable VPN protocols prevents headaches down the road. Factor in these key planning criteria before starting:

Assess User Requirements – Determine what network resources remote users specifically require access to, along with possible locations they’ll be connecting from. Planning estimated concurrent users and use cases helps size server requirements later.

VPN Protocol Considerations – Common protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2 or L2TP each have pros and cons regarding encryption strength, speeds, compatibility with firewalls, and client support across devices. Lean towards OpenVPN unless legacy client platforms require alternative PPTP or L2TP support.

Provider Selection – Self-hosting VPN software on owned servers allows greater control but adds complexity. Using commercial VPN providers simplifies setup as they deliver the server infrastructure and client software, albeit for monthly/annual fees. In either scenario, ensure satisfactory encryption & privacy safeguards get implemented.

With prep work completed, now the server and client side deployment steps can commence.

Setting Up the VPN Server

Like any security-centric server software deployment, care takes precedence over speed to build stable foundations before allowing remote access.

These principles guide savvy VPN server configurations:

Select Server Host – Using cloud platforms like AWS or Digital Ocean to host the VPN server frees you from costly dedicated hardware purchases. But privately hosting within company data centers allows tighter infrastructural control. Most managed commercial VPN providers include server resources as part of plans also.

Install and Configure Chosen Software – Leading open source VPN solutions include SoftEther, OpenVPN, and Wireguard. Commercial providers like Cisco or Creanord offer unified VPN platforms encompassing server deployment to remote client access too. Follow best practice hardening guides specific to whichever solution you select for locking down unnecessary ports while still enabling core VPN functionality.

Firewall Rules – Restrict VPN server firewall policies solely to allow required ports/protocols for approved VPN traffic flows and necessary administrative access only. Log analysis provides visibility into all connection attempts.

Adhering to strict server configurations and access control lists limits vulnerability windows snoops or cybercriminals potentially exploit given VPN servers sit openly on public IP spaces.

Configuring Remote Access Clients

With hardened server endpoints ready, now individual remote machines can get configured to relay traffic securely through the company VPN tunnel after authenticating.

Download/Install Client – Most commercial remote access VPN providers include custom apps or VPN profiles for simplified connection deployment across devices like Windows PCs, Macs, iPhones and Android mobiles. Open source solutions normally publish OS-specific install guides.

Configure Credentials – During client installation, users will need to enter server address details and required authentication material like shared secrets or digital certificates to validate against the VPN server when initiating secured tunnels from their machine.

Connection Testing – Once configured, test actually routing traffic like internet browsing or remote file access through the tunnel to validate encryption and permissions work as intended. RDP sessions to internal corporate desktops should connect seamlessly, for example.

Admins should implement group policies around VPN usage also – like temporarily blocking traffic should connections drop on managed machines to prevent accidental data leaks. Troubleshoot and refine client configurations using gathered feedback until organizations smoothly access necessary resources remotely.

Enhancing Security and Privacy

Complementary features better fortify remote access clients and server infrastructure against misuse or exploit attempts:

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – Augmenting single passwords with secondary credentials improves identity verification when connecting remotely. MFA options include email codes, SMS texts, biometric checks, hardware tokens, or authenticator app signoffs.

Implement VPN Kill Switch – As another safeguard against data leaks, enable client-side kill switch functionality to terminate all traffic should the encrypted VPN tunnel disconnect unexpectedly during a remote session. Adds leakage protection.

Prevent DNS Leaks – Using VPN provider specified DNS servers prevents local ISP DNS requests that could expose private DNS lookups to your internet provider and local snoops. Keep DNS queries secured via VPN tunnel as well.

Additionally, provide mandatory security awareness training for remote employees covering best practices around keeping VPN profiles and access details safeguarded, along with securely transferring sensitive data assets through established channels rather than potentially insecure collab platforms vulnerable to data exfiltration.

Managing and Maintaining the VPN

Like all mission-critical systems, monitor VPN performance daily and nurture infrastructure to accommodate evolving remote access needs:

Usage Reports – Collect metrics on active VPN connections, throughput, tunnel persistence, plus aggregate trends regarding remote employee portal utilization to locate areas needing performance optimization or additional client support licenses.

Software Updates – Regularly update both server and client-side VPN software components to benefit from security patches, along with new encryption and protocol introductions improving resilience against sophisticated emerging threats. Don’t let legacy gear linger!

Scale Capacity – Closely project bandwidth needs and concurrent usage growth across the workforce using past trends and usage predictors. Proactively scale VPN server capacity in alignment through optimizing internet links or increasing cloud-allocated resources to fulfill demand.

Ongoing VPN management vigilance prevents bottlenecks and maximizes system longevity guarding remote access pathways as organizational reliance on remote connectivity accelerates into the future across industries.

Conclusion

Configuring reliable VPN software for remote access requires methodical planning and deployment for fortifying sensitive tunnels without impacting client connectivity or productivity from afar. But the multi-faceted privacy protections and data security advantages from fine-tuned VPN solutions make the investment extremely worthwhile long-term.

Employ the combined prescriptive guidance around server hosting selections, VPN protocol decisions optimized for specific access requirements, value-added client security extensions like MFA authentication, plus consistent maintenance practices to steer your organization’s remote access potential in a securely scaled direction.

As remote work dependence grows, so does VPN importance – let this comprehensive blueprint guide you towards the informed self-hosted or managed VPN service combination matching both remote access needs and overarching infrastructure fit. The solutions unlocking work-from-anywhere flexibility also provide peace of mind that corporate assets and reputations stay equally protected regardless of wherever employees connect from thanks to accessible VPN tools benefiting site reliability and risk management efforts in parallel.

Tags: