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Virtual Private Network

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Introduction

The sharing of information amongst departments within corporations has become an integral part of ensuring efficiency and decision making hence yielding in productivity. In order to bolster the communication channel within our corporation, it becomes necessary to adopt new technology such as the Virtual Private Network (VPN).

The VPN can be defined as a private network that operates through the use of a public network such as the Internet in order to connect multiple locations, which are remote. The VPN facilitates interconnectivity of networks over long distances and, therefore, forms a wide network area (Stairs et al., 2009). In technical terms, the VPN is Wide Area Network across the Internet that creates links between sites even though it appears to users as a private network link (Wouters & Bantof, 2006). The VPN also supports secure connections between an organization’s private network and that of the remote users through a third party service provider. The network is normally encrypted, and telecommuters have vouched for the reliability, safety and low-cost of VPN in a bid to connect an organization's intranet (Shinder & Shinder, 2004; Stairs et al., 2009).  It is, however, important to note that there are basically two types of VPN namely: the remote access VPN and the site-to-site VPN. I highly recommend a site-to-site VPN, otherwise referred to as the router-to-router VPN connection.

Summary of Technology/Problem Solution

The Site-to-Site VPN Connection

The Site-to-Site VPN connection is a network that enables an organization to have routed connections between its varied separate offices and/or with other affiliate organizations through a public network without compromising the security of the network (Morimoto et al., 2008, Schnider, 2011). In essence, a routed VPN across the routed VPN connection through the use of the internet operates logically as a Wide Area Network link. Whenever the network is connected through the use of the Internet, a router effectively sends forward packets into another router along the VPN connection. In terms of the routers, the VPN connection serves as data layer link (Lewis and Lewis, 2006; Morimoto et al., 2008, Schnider, 2011).

Besides, the Site-to-Site VPN connection can be used to link two disparate portions of a private network. In this case, the VPN server plays the role of providing a routed connection to the network that is attached to the VPN server. Therefore, the calling router- also referred to as the VPN client- automatically authenticates itself to the VPN server which is otherwise termed as the answering router. It should be noted that for the purpose of mutual authentication, the answering router does authenticate itself in response to the calling router. Therefore, in a Site-to-Site VPN connections the packets sent from either of the routers across the VPN connection do not typically originate from the router (Morimoto, 2004; Bendell, 2006; Morimoto et al., 2008).

In essence, the site-to-site VPN connects two networks that are dispersed by linking them with a leased line, a WAN circuit or through a public network such as the Internet. The actual underlying infrastructure for the network is inconsequential, provided that the sites can be linked to each other through the IP (Khan, 2005; Matei, 2012).

The sites can operate using the pre-shared keys: the key can be shared between the sites to enable mutual authentication and to help establish the encryption of initials that can be exchanged IPsec tunnel parameters. On the other hand, the site-to-site VPN may operate using digital certificates, which belong to each particular site. This is provided by a central CA for the facilitation of authentication and encryption of the earlier exchanges between the sites (Khan, 2005; Matei, 2012).

The use of a site-to-site VPN connection provides substantial constant savings when compared to the other network that uses dedicated Wide Area Network link. Whatever is required to use a site-to-site VPN is a VPN gateway and a working Internet connection that is relatively inexpensive. After the VPN connection has established connections between sites, the site-to-site VPN link is invariably established (Shinder & Shinder, 2004; Schinder, 2011).

The users on each end can then communicate with the other networks through the site-to-site VPN link as it would be the case with the routed connection on their very own networks. In this case, the gateways serve as routers and, therefore, route the packets to the designated networks. In a typical context, the site-to-site VPN connections are established between the offices of an organization either between departments, the main office and the myriad branch offices (Schinder, 2011). 

This is considered as an approach to social theory that is agent based. The theory bears its origin from social studies and regards objects as being part and parcel of a social network. The theory puts much emphasis on the agency of non-humans in a communication channel and helps in mapping the simultaneous relationships between the semiotics or the concepts and the material within a communication network (Fenwick et al., 2010).

Therefore, the ANT provides the means through which the relational ties in a particular network can be explored but does not shed additional light on the reason and the form of the network. In a nut shell, this theory provides the explanation of how the material and semiotic networks are built up so that they function as a whole. Therefore, the clusters of actors who are involved in the creation of meaning can be described as being both material and semiotic. This explicitly relates the various elements that are found within a network, thereby coming up with the coherent whole. Such networks are invariably transient, and as a result, they exist in a constant re-making and making process. Subsequently, the relations are repeatedly performed without which the network is subject to dissolution. The theory also makes the assumption that the networks of relations are by no means intrinsically coherent (Fenwick et al., 2010).

The actors in this theory include both human and non-humans and in the context of the network they relate with one another. This theory assumes that there is nothing that lies outside this network of relations; implying that there are no distinct differences in the abilities of the technology, human and non-human to act. Therefore, as soon as the actor engages with the actor-network, it is invariably involved in the web of relations, thereby becoming part of the entelechy (Fenwick et al., 2010).

This theory is imperative in the quest to install the site-to-site VPN as it helps in understanding the position and interaction of various players (human and non-human) within the network. The understanding of this relation is critical in ensuring that the network is exploited to the maximum.

Structuration Theory

The structuration theory talks about the duality of structures of communication. This duality involves the relationship between structure and agency. In essence, the theory attempts to look at how agents relate to the structural elements of the society. The theory perceives structure as that which gives form to the social life without necessarily being the form itself. Therefore, structures come into being through the activities of the agents (human).  On the other hand, agency refers to the patterns of people’s actions and not their intentions for doing their activities (Stones, 2005).

In general term, the structuration theory is considered as a theoretical approach towards sociological phenomenon. Initially, during its formulation the theory did not address the technological aspect of human relations. However, as technology began to take a critical and almost central place in human relations, especially in the organizational setups the theory was extended to include the information technology dimension (Stones, 2005).

This theory will be instrumental in the implementation of this set-to-set VPN as it will help to understand the position of the corporation’s staff as agents; and how their interactions across the network is a dual nature. Therefore, this gives the interactions a form that either displays the success or failure of the communication system.

Systems Theory

The systems theory has been considered as a study that rather cuts across all disciplines. This study delves into the abstract organization of various phenomena bearing in mind the independence of their types, substances and/or spatial scales of existence. The theory investigates the principles that are found in all complex entities and models that can be used to lend their understanding. According to this theory, a system consists of four main components. The first components can be defined as objects: they involve variables, elements and parts within the system. They can either be abstract, physical or both in accordance to the system’s nature. The second component includes the attributes: these are qualities or properties that the objects and system exhibit. The third component is the internal relationship between the objects in the system, and the final component is the environment in which the system exists (Dwivedi, 2012).

Therefore, according to the theory, the system is a set of things that impact on each other within a particular environment, forming a larger pattern that is disparate from any other parts. In the analysis of the organizations, the important systems interactive paradigm consists of looking at the continual stages such as the input, processing and the output. These stages reveal the concept of openness and/or closeness. The closed system does not interact with the environment in which the system is set up: such a system does not take in new information and can, therefore, wither and die away. On the other hand, an open system takes in new information since it interacts with the environment in which it is based. The open system, therefore, increases the possibilities of survival and prosperity (Dwivedi, 2012).

This theory is critical in helping shape that kind of system that will be effective for the corporation. The theory proposes that we open our soon to be implemented site-to-site VPN connection to new information as this will not only enable our sustainability, but this appreciation of our environment will make our communication channel efficient and productive.

Social Construction of Technology Theory

Also referred to as SCOT, this theory posits that technology does not determine the actions of humans within a communication channel but rather it is the human actions that shape the technology. The theory also posits that the ways in which technology is used, can hardly be understood whereby a full comprehension of the ways in which that technology is ingrained in the social context. This theory is referred to by some scholars as technological constructivism, especially those who consider it a response to technological determinism (Bijker, 2012).

According to the theory, the study of the social world is critical in understanding the criteria that people use to determine whether to accept or reject a particular technology. The theory is, therefore, a methodology as it helps in the formalization of the principles and steps that need to be followed when analyzing the failures and success of a particular technology (Bijker, 2012).

This theory is fundamental in these initial stages of implementing the site-to-site VPN connection in our corporation. The theory proposes that we understand the effectiveness of this system by taking a critical look at the social milieu in which it is going to be set. This is because; the social environment will determine the form and productivity of the system.

 The Activity Theory

This theory principally aids in understanding the mental capabilities of an individual. The theory, however, goes ahead to confirm that isolated individuals are sufficient to conduct the analysis of a unit, the analysis of the technical and cultural aspects of the interactions between human beings. Therefore, the theory is mostly used in the description of socio-technical system based on six interrelated elements. These elements include the objective of the system; the actors that are engaged in the system (Kaptelinin and Nardi, 2009).

The other elements also include the tools that are used by the actors in the communication system; the social context within which the system is based; the division of labor or rather the hierarchical structure of the actors in the system and finally the conventions, rules and guidelines put in place to regulate the various activities of the system (Kaptelinin and Nardi, 2009).

This theory is invaluable in the implementation of the site-to-site VPN connection in the company. The theory helps in understanding the various actors in the system and more so the role that they play in the conception and effectiveness of the system. Understanding the individuals is crucial in further understanding the general social context within which the system is based, thereby making it possible for the prediction of its suitability and potential.

The Technical Specification of the Site-to-Site Virtual Private Network

The system will use an OpenVPN, which is an open source SSLVPN client server that will enable the setting up of the corporation’s encrypted VPN. The OpenVPN is crucial in securing the sharing and access of information between offices irrespective of their distances. The system will require a central office that will be linked to a handful of computers across the various departmental offices. These computers will be connected by routers. This will require access to both the client and server side routers (Teska, 2008).

Therefore, the client network and the server network will be separated into disparate broadcast domains - a process that will require a WINS server in order to route the Windows file-share information between the two or various sub-nets. The required hardware will, therefore, include the Linksy WRT54G (for the client router); the D-Link DLG-4300 (for the server router). The server OpenVPN Machine will have the following specifications: Processor – AMD Athlon 1600+, RAM – 768 Mb and Operating System – Slackware 10.2. The client OpenVPN Machine will have the following specifications: Processor – AMD Athlon X2 3800+, RAM – 2 GB and Operating System – Slackware 12 (Teska, 2008).

Feasibility Study

The installation of the site-to-site Virtual Private Network is not just feasible for the organization but also an inevitable measure. Notably, the installation of this system can be completed within the next six months as reflected in the operation plan, given the commitment of the corporation to prioritize its implementation. The installation will not be an added financial burden to the corporation’s already scheduled financial budget. This is because some of the equipment required for successful installation of the system is already in place, including cable networks and computers and other installation materials. While an upgrade of some of the computers is called for, they can still be used for the installation purpose and be replaced at a later stage, at the corporation’s convenience. Arguably, the only new dimension that the site-to-site VPN connection introduces to the already existing communication system is the Internet aspect, which will be able to bridge the offices that have not been able to communicate due to geographical distances. It is worth noting that the Internet is affordable, and the necessary measures have been put in place to ensure that the corporation’s information will be secured.

Due to the magnitude of the corporation, especially with offices scattered across the country, there is a need for swift up-to-the-minute communication between these various departments. The site-to-site VPN connection is the apt solution that can help bridge this information gap due to its cost effectiveness and information safety.

Operation Plan

The implementation dates of the various aspects of installation of the site-to-site VPN is indicated chronologically in the table below.

Time Line

Activity

January 25 to February 15, 2013

Review and Approval of the Site to Site VPN Proposal Report

February 16 to March 30, 2013

Examination of the Existing System across the Countrywide Offices

April to June 15, 2013

Setting Up the New Infrastructure between the Main Office and the Remote Offices

June 16 to July 31, 2013

Testing the installed system.

August 1, 2013

Launching the system.

 

Recommendations

After intensive discussion in this report on the merits of the site-to-site VPN connection and the provision of the reasons as to why the corporation should adopt the system, I would recommend that the implementation of the same be given prominence to enable timely communication between the various departments in the corporation.

In this case, time is of the essence as information is considered today as one of the determinants of profitability and efficiency in organizations. Therefore, the corporation should promptly consider the merits of the proposed communication system and embark on its implementation. In the installation process, the proposed installation price should be duly followed to avoid the omission of the key elements of the proposed system.

Conclusion

In this discussion, it is proposed the site-to-site Virtual Private Network is befitting for the upgrade of the communication system of the corporation. This proposed VPN model will use the Internet to facilitate communication between different offices within the corporation. The security of the information and the affordability of the Internet are some of the merits that we have pinpointed as being inherent with this system. We have also discussed its pertinent requirements and how they enable the efficiency and security of the system. Besides, we have discussed how the five telecommunication technology theories are applied in the proposed system and revealed the theories that help in understanding the various components of the system.

In summary, the recommendation of the site-to-site VPN connection is in recognition of the corporation’s communication needs and financial constraints. This system will help the corporation’s effective sharing and access of information, which is critical in timely decision making and hence productivity. 

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