How to Setup a VPN Tunnel

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) links two different locations as if they were connected through a local private network. You might want to set up a VPN tunnel for a variety of reasons, increased security and convenience being the most common.

Let’s explore some of the reasons why you might opt for a VPN tunnel rather than a complete VPN service, and also look at some of the differences between these two services.

What Is A VPN Tunnel?

As the name suggests, a ‘tunnel’ travels through some material to link two different locations more directly, for example a tunnel through a mountain creates a direct route between both sides of the mountain. Replace that mountain with the internet, and you have a VPN tunnel: a direct route across the web linking two different machines.

A tunnel need not be encrypted, though the usual reason for setting up a tunnel is to transfer sensitive data, and therefore encryption tends to be used. A common scenario is a company with offices in multiple locations. The company wants to transfer sensitive data between different offices, but each office only uses a standard unencrypted internet connection. This is where a VPN comes in – the VPN tunnel allows this data to be sent encrypted on a direct path between the offices.
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Why You Might Want To Set Up A VPN Tunnel

People choose to set up a VPN tunnel for many different reasons. Firstly, VPN tunneling lets an application establish an encrypted TCP/IP connection with a server. Many applications – especially those using the client/server protocol – require the application to access data from a database server. A tunnel not only makes this connection more straightforward for the end user, it also makes the process of data transmission much more secure.
Another reason for setting up a VPN tunnel is to encrypt all the traffic that flows out of a location. Setting up a tunnel either through a regular or transparent proxy will encrypt all data leaving a particular location.

How to Set Up a VPN Tunnel

You can manually set up an SSH connection to encrypt traffic between your machine and a server.
  1. To start with, download Putty and run the installation file. Enter the hostname (which is the IP), and any other information required for SSH access.
  2. In Putty, go to ‘Connection’ then ‘SSH’ and click on ‘Tunnels’. This menu allows you to configure SSH tunnels. Write your port information in here.
  3. After connecting, a window will open as Putty connects to the remote location. You can configure Putty to stop showing this shell and just have a blank screen instead, with the tunnel still open.
  4. You’re now set to go. You can use your tunnel by opening a web browser, or configuring an application to localhost and selecting where you want the port to forward to.

A much easier option is to use an off-the-rack, readymade VPN solution such as VPN. With 2 gigabytes offered as part of its free package, you’ve nothing to lose by giving it a try.