Imagine a multinational corporation sharing confidential data between its headquarters in New York and its research facility in Tokyo. Sending this data across the world safely, hidden from prying eyes and protected from snoops, is possible when you use a site-to-site VPN.
Keep reading as I explain what a site-to-site VPN is, how it works, and its benefits and limitations. We’ll also go over how it’s different from other types of VPNs, its real-life applications, and who should use one.
A site-to-site VPN won’t stop your employer from snooping on what you’re up to at work – in fact, it’ll probably mean they can see everything you’re doing online. If you want real privacy at the office, you need a personal VPN. CyberGhost uses military-grade encryption to make sure no-one – including your boss – can track what you’re doing.
What Is a Site-to-Site VPN and How Does it Work?
Every modem and router setup represents a Local Area Network (LAN). Your home network, for example, and the network at work are two separate and unique LAN networks. A site-to-site VPN enables multiple LAN networks to connect seamlessly and securely with each other. The VPN acts as a secret tunnel between two or more LANs, creating a single secure WAN (Wide Area Network).
Many organizations with multiple physical locations use site-to-site VPNs to privately share information and resources between their offices. Suppose an employee sends a file from one office to another. The site-to-site VPN encrypts the data at network A before it travels over the internet and decrypts it at network B. This way, employees at different offices can communicate over the internet without worrying about data leaks or cyber theft.
Benefits of Site-to-Site VPNs
Many businesses and government organizations use site-to-site VPNs to share sensitive information between physical sites. This is because they offer unique benefits, like:
- ✅ Secure data transmission: Secure data transmission is the primary reason companies use site-to-site VPNs. The technology encrypts traffic flowing between sites, ensuring sensitive information remains confidential during transmission. Third parties won’t be able to read the encrypted data even if they manage to intercept the traffic.
- ✅ Easy access control: Certain network resources are meant exclusively for internal use. A site-to-site VPN helps grant access to employees at different locations while excluding external users. As site-to-site VPN users count as internal users, it simplifies access control rules. You can effectively block external traffic from accessing these resources.
- ✅ Seamless data sharing: A site-to-site VPN creates a WAN when it connects two or more LANs together. WANs are great for transferring data between different locations with minimal hiccups. This makes life easy if you want to streamline communication and resource sharing between distant physical locations.
- ✅ Scalable: If your company opens a new office, you can add it to your existing site-to-site VPN. The ability to add new sites to a site-to-site VPN WAN makes it suitable for companies intending to grow their operations.
- ✅ Easy to operate: A site-to-site VPN doesn’t rely on a client/server connection like personal VPN services do. This means employees don’t have to install VPN apps on their devices. They just have to connect to the office network and the already-set-up site-to-site VPN takes care of secure data transmission.
Limitations of Site-to-Site VPNs
A site-to-site VPN is handy for secure data sharing over large physical distances, but it only makes the cut for some. Here are some reasons it might not be the best solution every time:
- ❌ Doesn’t suit remote teams: A site-to-site VPN only offers protection to employees connected to the office network. Anyone working remotely won’t have access to the VPN gateway, and the data they share won’t be secure. A remote access VPN would better suit businesses with remote workers.
- ❌ Only provides point-to-point connectivity: A site-to-site VPN creates a unique connection for each pair of sites. You’ll have to set up a ton of site-to-site VPN connections if you have many sites to connect.
- ❌ Limited security at the LAN level: You will get secure data transmission between two office networks (LANs) with a site-to-site VPN. However, it doesn’t protect the data or devices within each LAN.
- ❌ Lacks advanced security features: The VPN tunnel encrypts the data but doesn’t offer other security features like data regulation. Companies can use a hub-and-spoke model where all sites are connected to a central control point that grants or denies data access to different sites. However, this increases the load on the main network, leading to significant lag.
- ❌ Lack of visibility and decentralized management: Every site-to-site VPN connection operates independently. This makes it hard to oversee and manage data transfers across multiple connections. Handling the setup, configuration, and monitoring of separate VPN connections is a challenge for most small-to-medium-sized businesses.
Site-to-Site VPNs vs. Remote Access VPNs
With a site-to-site VPN, you don’t need to install any client VPN apps on your devices. It encrypts traffic traveling between the designated gateways (reconfigured routers) and works for all devices connected to the network. However, it won’t work if you’re not connected to the office network, so it doesn’t suit remote teams. A remote access VPN (AKA client-to-site VPN) is the answer to that problem.
Just like a personal VPN app, a remote access VPN uses a client/server model. It lets you securely connect to a private network over the internet from a remote location. A remote access VPN uses a client app on your device to encrypt traffic and route it through a secure tunnel until it reaches its destination.
Employees can use a remote access VPN to securely connect to corporate networks, share resources and communicate with their team remotely. This makes it a practical choice for large businesses with remote employees. Many businesses use both types of VPNs to reap the benefits of secure site-to-site connectivity while covering for their remote employees.
|Site-to-Site VPN||Remote Access VPN|
|Encrypts traffic flowing between designated gateways||Encrypts traffic flowing between your device and destination network or server|
|Doesn’t require a client app||Requires a client app|
|Doesn’t suit remote teams||Suits remote teams|
|Permanent connection||Temporary connection|
If you’re just looking for a way to secure your small business against cyber attacks, a commercial VPN is a simple and affordable option. You can configure CyberGhost VPN on your router to protect all the devices connected to your network. We have secure RAM-only VPN servers in 91+ countries and encrypt your connection using military-grade 256-bit AES encryption. Our strict No Logs policy has been independently verified by Deloitte, so you can rest easy knowing no one can spy on your sensitive work files — not even us.
Types of Site-to-Site VPNs
A site-to-site VPN can either be intranet or extranet-based, depending on how an organization works. Here’s what makes them different:
- Internal network focus: Intranet-based site-to-site VPNs primarily connect different sites or branches within the same organization. They create a secure shared private network for internal communication.
- No external parties: Intranet-based VPNs do not involve external parties or third-party networks. They’re for internal use only, ensuring that communication remains within the organization.
- Centralized control: Intranet site-to-site VPNs are configured separately at each site but centralized management oversees these teams. This makes it possible to direct the regulation and maintenance of VPN connections.
- External partner access: Extranet-based site-to-site VPNs allow external partners, such as suppliers, clients, or business collaborators, secure access to specific resources on an organization’s network.
- Shared with trusted parties: Organizations and trusted external parties can communicate securely. They often use a shared private network segment or tunnel for this purpose.
- Intellectual property protection: Access control is a critical aspect of extranet-based VPNs. Organizations can grant limited access to specific resources. This prevents third parties from accessing internal resources you want to keep private, balancing security and external collaboration.
The choice between an intranet-based and an extranet-based site-to-site VPN depends on your organization’s networking needs. Intranet-based VPNs are best for secure internal communication and resource-sharing, while extranet-based VPNs facilitate secure interaction with external partners.
Does Your Business Need a Site-to-Site VPN?
A site-to-site VPN enhances online privacy and data security, but it’s not suitable for every business. Consider the following factors when deciding whether to use one:
- Company size: Large companies with multiple locations usually need a site-to-site VPN. If you have a small company with only one office, you don’t really need it.
- Number of company sites: A site-to-site VPN is a good option if your company intends to spread operations or is operating at multiple sites already.
- Sensitivity of information: Secure data transmission is important if your business operations involve sharing sensitive data. For instance, if you’re in the finance or healthcare industry, a site-to-site VPN can go a long way to protect sensitive customer information.
Using Site-to-Site VPNs to Access Cloud Servers Securely
If your organization uses Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) technology, you can combine it with a site-to-site VPN. This setup establishes secure connections between on-premises networks (such as corporate offices) and the company’s VPC storage. Many companies also use remote access VPNs with VPC technology to simultaneously secure remote workers’ connections to their private cloud servers.
Site-to-Site VPNs offer a compelling solution for organizations seeking secure, efficient, and seamless networking. It builds a secure tunnel between two private networks so you can share data securely across long distances.
As we’ve explored, this technology isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It works best for large organizations spread across multiple locations and with few to no remote workers. If your business aligns with this and has sensitive data to protect, a site-to-site VPN may be an ideal solution.
Only need a VPN to protect your small business or important data while working from home or traveling abroad? You can use CyberGhost VPN to quickly and easily secure your devices by downloading our apps. You can also protect your whole network by configuring our VPN on your router. It’s much easier and faster than setting up your own VPN, and you get extra security benefits like our Kill Switch and DNS leak protection.
A site-to-site VPN is a type of VPN. VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, provide secure, encrypted connections to remote networks and have many security and access-related use cases. Site-to-site VPNs create an encrypted connection between two or more local networks, which caters to business networking needs.
The best site-to-site VPN can vary depending on your specific needs. When selecting a site-to-site VPN, factor in organization size, budget, security needs, and scalability. Go for an intranet-based site-to-site VPN if you don’t have to work with third parties and have highly sensitive data to protect. Choose an extranet-based one if your work involves collaboration with external teams.
To set up a site-to-site VPN, you first need to plan which locations require connectivity and determine the level of security needed. Then, choose a VPN protocol, such as IPsec or SSL, according to your requirements. You’ll need to install and set up the relevant hardware and software components to facilitate VPN network configuration. You’ll also have to assign each site involved in the VPN a unique IP address.
After that, establish authentication mechanisms, such as passwords or certificates, to guarantee secure access. Create the VPN tunnel and routing and firewall rules for secure and efficient data transmission. Finally, testing is a vital step to ensure the site-to-site VPN is functioning.
A site-to-site VPN in the context of a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) refers to a secure, encrypted connection between an organization’s on-premises network and its VPC in a cloud environment, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or another cloud provider. This connection allows data to flow securely between the organization’s local network and the cloud-based VPC.
Suppose a multinational corporation with headquarters in New York and branch offices in Tokyo, London, and Sydney needs to securely connect these geographically distant locations. It uses a site-to-site VPN to establish encrypted connections between the different offices.
Each office has a local network with its own servers and resources. The headquarters in New York also has its own network infrastructure. The site-to-site VPN will act as an encrypted tunnel between all these locations. This way, data can flow securely and privately between the offices over the public internet as if they are on the same local network.
Intranet-based and extranet-based are the two types of site-to-site VPNs and they cater to different business needs.
Intranet-based VPNs connect different local networks, offering secure internal communication and access to shared resources. Organizations typically use this to maintain centralized control of their data and keep external parties from accessing sensitive information.
Extranet-based VPNs allow trusted external networks secure access to specific resources, promoting secure interactions. It’s often used by companies to share information securely with third-party organizations, like vendors.
Key components of a site-to-site VPN include gateway devices, the tunnel protocol, authentication methods, IP address assignment, security policies, key management, routing protocols, firewall rules, monitoring tools, thorough documentation, and ongoing management. These components work together to create secure connections between networks, protecting data confidentiality and integrity.
Site-to-site VPN and IPsec are closely related but distinct concepts. Site-to-Site is a type of VPN that facilitates secure, encrypted connections between entire local networks. This enables confidential and secure data transfer, as if geographically distant sites were part of the same local network.
Site-to-site VPNs can utilize various VPN protocols, with IPsec being a common choice due to its encryption and security features. While IPsec plays an important role in site-to-site VPNs, it’s versatile and extends to other VPN applications too.
Site-to-site VPNs are not suitable for remote teams, as they can only protect office-based employees. They can also become complex to maintain when connecting multiple sites.
A site-to-site VPN ensures secure data transmission between office networks but lacks protection at the LAN level. This technology also lacks advanced security features, such as content regulation or access control. Lastly, the decentralized nature of site-to-site VPNs makes it challenging to manage and oversee security and data flow.
Remote access and personal VPNs are two alternatives to site-to-site VPNs. Site-to-site VPNs don’t work for remote employees, but a remote access VPN allows a secure connection to a specific private network from anywhere. You can also use a personal virtual private network, such as CyberGhost VPN, to surf the internet safely.
Site-to-site VPNs use two primary authentication methods: Pre-Shared Keys (PSK) and Certificate-based. PSK involves sharing a secret key (password) between the VPN endpoints, which is a simple but potentially less secure option. Digital Certificates provide more security, with each site having its own certificate shared over a tunnel secured by public key infrastructure (PKI).