What Is a VPN Concentrator and How Does It Work?

Are you a medium or large business with a growing list of remote employees? If so,  you’ve probably heard of VPN concentrators. They allow your workforce to connect to the network and work as if they’re in the office, without actually being there. Clever? Yes, but site-to-site VPNs do this too — and so do IPSec VPNs. 

With so many options, it’s hard to know what’s the right solution. So what is a VPN concentrator? How do they work? Are they the best option for you? We’ll answer all these questions right here.

What Is a VPN Concentrator?

A VPN concentrator is a device that lets multiple people connect to a local network using a secure VPN connection. It’s similar to configuring a VPN on your router, but instead of only supporting devices that are connected locally, it also lets people access the network remotely. Rather than just one person connecting to a network via a single VPN tunnel, though, hundreds of people can access a network simultaneously using a VPN concentrator connection. These devices are typically used by organizations to let employees safely access internal resources from remote locations.

What Does a VPN Concentrator Do?

A VPN concentrator creates encrypted tunnels between your devices and the main network, using VPN protocols to send data. It changes your IP addresses and wraps your data in encryption. Encryption stops outsiders from viewing or stealing your data by making it unreadable, which means you can send and receive data securely. This is especially important when employees are accessing sensitive workplace information. Transmitted data travels through the tunnel in encrypted packets to its destination, where it’s then decrypted. It works both ways, i.e. from your device to the network, and from the network to your device.

VPN concentrators also rely on user authentication to make sure that only authorized individuals can access the network. You need the correct login credentials and privileges to be able to use the VPN concentrator to access the main network. This prevents outsiders from getting into internal workplace systems or servers, whether they’re just curious people or cybercriminals. 

Most VPN concentrators can be configured manually with port forwarding. Port forwarding can be dangerous and leaves you vulnerable to cybercriminals if it’s not managed correctly. Some ports are littered with cybercriminals watching for unprotected networks. That’s not something anyone wants to face, but it’s especially risky at work when you’re sending confidential information. 

Here’s a quick roundup of what a VPN concentrator does:

    • Establishes multiple VPN tunnels to a main network
    • Secures traffic by transmitting data in encrypted packets
    • Authenticates users to grant or deny access to the network
    • Changes and assigns IP addresses to individual users

What Is a VPN Concentrator Used For?

VPN concentrators are mainly used to establish encrypted remote connections to a centralized network. That’s why they’re often used by medium and large companies. 

Businesses can grant large groups of employees access to the main network, without them having to be in the office. This is especially useful for companies with multiple branches or remote workers. No matter where a person is, they can still access the workplace network and company resources remotely. 

A VPN concentrator has many other use cases besides secure remote access. They can be used to easily manage user privileges, especially if employees should have different access to certain apps or network areas for security reasons. Many companies also use VPN concentrators simply to keep workplace information private. They can encrypt all data entering and leaving local systems on the network — even if employees aren’t working remotely. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a VPN Concentrator

    • 👍🏻 Establishes encrypted connections
    • 👍🏻 Allows high numbers of individuals to connect to one network remotely
    • 👍🏻 Allows businesses to authenticate users and manage privileges
    • 👍🏻 Ideal for large corporations with hundreds or thousands of employees
    • 👎🏻 Can be costly
    • 👎🏻 Can be difficult to configure correctly
    • 👎🏻 Can slow down connection speeds
    • 👎🏻 Not suitable for small businesses or individuals

Using a VPN concentrator offers many advantages, especially for large corporations. The biggest benefit is that employees can easily and securely access the workplace network from anywhere. It keeps company data secure and away from cybercriminals and unauthorized individuals, even if transmitting data remotely. It also means businesses can manage privileges and user access to prevent data leaks. 

That said, VPN concentrators also have their drawbacks. They can be costly to implement due to the sheer size of users they enable. Unlike a typical consumer VPN, which typically limits the number of device connections (per subscription) to a VPN server, VPN concentrators can allow up to thousands of users to establish a secure connection to a local network. This also means these setups can be difficult to manage and require a high level of technical expertise to configure correctly. 

Will a VPN Concentrator Affect Your Internet Speeds?

VPN concentrators can affect your connection performance, just like a consumer VPN client does. They encrypt your traffic and create a secure VPN tunnel to transmit data. These extra steps can slow down your connection and increase latency, but it’s usually not noticeable — and a slight drop in speed is worth the additional security.

How Much Does a VPN Concentrator Cost?

VPN concentrators can be expensive because they let high numbers of users send data via encrypted tunnels. Costs vary depending on the provider and the exact number of users a business needs to facilitate.

Some providers might let 1,000 users establish simultaneous encrypted connections, while others can only enable 100 users. The more connections you need, the higher the fee. Expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $1,500 (and sometimes more!) for a VPN concentrator.

How to Choose the Best VPN Concentrator

The best VPN concentrator for you depends on various factors. You’ll need to consider the budget and number of users you want to connect to make sure your chosen provider can accommodate your needs. You should also look at functionality and features — compare providers and ensure the solution has everything you need. 

Some of the most common VPN concentrators include Cisco Meraki, ShoreTel, and Aruba — all of which offer different benefits. For example, ShoreTel allows you to set up telephone networks and encrypt company communications. Cisco Meraki is probably the easiest to configure and is tailored to large businesses with thousands of employees. 

VPN Concentrator vs. VPN Servers

VPN concentrators aren’t right for everyone. If you’re an everyday internet user, paying the expense to connect hundreds of people to a VPN concentrator probably isn’t the wisest choice. You can opt for a consumer VPN client instead. 

A VPN works similarly to a VPN concentrator. It encrypts your online traffic and sends your data through a VPN tunnel that’s hidden from others on the web. Unlike VPN concentrators, though, a consumer VPN only lets one or a few users connect at once. 

Most VPN servers don’t let you connect to devices or local networks remotely. You’d need to set up port forwarding to enable remote access, but this can be risky for your online security. Port forwarding can expose you to cyber attacks and invite malicious content to your device or network, so proceed with caution. 

If you don’t need remote access to devices or content on a local network, and just want to secure your internet connection, a consumer VPN is more than sufficient. You can download CyberGhost VPN to secure your device traffic and stay safe online. One subscription gives you 7 simultaneous connections, so you can still establish secure connections on multiple devices at once. Our VPN also has military-grade encryption and strong security protocols to keep your data concealed.

VPN Concentrator Alternatives

If you don’t think a VPN concentrator is the right solution, you can try other options. Let’s look at some VPN concentrator alternatives.

Use a VPN Router

For families, people with several devices, and very small businesses, a VPN router could be all you need. Configuring a VPN on your router encrypts every device connected to the network. This means it protects traffic on devices that don’t natively support VPNs, even if the VPN has a limited number of simultaneous connections. If you need to keep data on your network secure, a VPN router is a good option.

VPN routers aren’t the best choice for remote access though. Routers don’t accommodate remote connections by default, so they require manual setup and port forwarding to open the network to remote access. This can cause security issues too, which might make your traffic and network accessible to others. If you need remote connections, a site-to-site or IPSec VPN might be the better choice.

Set Up a Site-to-Site VPN

A VPN concentrator only lets you access resources from one internal location. Site-to-site VPNs pool resources from different locations together and give people the ability to safely send and receive information between those local networks. They’re ideal for businesses with offices in multiple locations, including other countries. 

The main drawback is that site-to-site VPNs require setting up additional network hardware and configuration for remote employees, which can make them more difficult to implement. 

Install an IPSec VPN

Workplaces can also use IPSec VPNs to enable remote access to company servers. It establishes an encrypted tunnel using the IPSec VPN protocol so employees can easily access files and internal servers remotely. This includes files from the entire network, rather than just one internal location (like with site-to-site VPNs). 

Secure Your Internal Systems with a VPN Concentrator

For enterprises growing at scale, VPN concentrators offer a secure, flexible solution that enables the entire workforce to access a centralized network. They also add an extra layer of security to workplace systems, encrypting transmitted data to and from users’ devices. 

The benefits of VPN concentrators are clear, but are they right for you? Unless you employ hundreds of people needing access to the same internal network, probably not. 

A consumer VPN client is more than enough for a small business and the average internet user. If you need remote access to a local network, you’ll need to set it up manually using port forwarding, but it’s better than paying for a VPN concentrator that you don’t need. You’ll also get advanced online security and protection against harmful online actors. You can download CyberGhost VPN to secure your traffic and keep snoopers away from your online activities. 


What is the difference between a VPN and a VPN concentrator?

A VPN concentrator is a piece of hardware that enables multiple secure VPN connections simultaneously so users can access internal resources from a remote location. It encrypts data packets and sends them through a VPN tunnel to keep information secure. A VPN client also establishes secure connections, but it only enables one VPN tunnel between a user’s device and the VPN server. Unlike a VPN concentrator, a VPN doesn’t facilitate remote access. 

Are VPN concentrators still used?

Yes, but usually only by large corporations. Businesses use VPN concentrators so employees can securely access the centralized network and resources remotely. VPN concentrators can accommodate thousands of VPN tunnels at once, which makes them ideal for businesses with large numbers of employees. 

Is a VPN concentrator a firewall?

No. VPN concentrators are used in conjunction with firewalls. VPN concentrators are primarily used to enable secure remote access and encrypt company communications. Firewalls prevent unauthorized access to the network and infiltration of malware. VPN concentrators and firewalls serve different purposes, but they’re often used together as part of a company’s cybersecurity strategy.

What is the difference between a VPN concentrator remote access and a site-to-site VPN?

A VPN concentrator is a device enabling thousands of users to connect to a centralized network remotely. Users can only access files on that specific internal network. A site-to-site VPN allows users to access network resources from multiple locations, for example, workplace servers in different offices. 

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