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What is a VPN concentrator?

With the growing popularity of remote work, security threats are migrating from our corporate offices to our homes. Without the right security tools, this transition can leave us vulnerable. That's why businesses are looking for ways to extend corporate security tools to employees' homes. This is where a VPN (Virtual Private Network) concentrator comes in handy, but what is it and how does it work?

Paulius Ilevičius

Paulius Ilevičius

What is a VPN concentrator?

What does VPN concentrator mean?

A VPN concentrator is a networking device that creates and helps to manage multiple VPN connections remotely. It establishes multiple encrypted VPN tunnels at the same time and provides a secure and encrypted connection between different VPN nodes. It is a server-side feature.

This device extends the capabilities of a VPN router. One such tool can serve thousands of users at the same time and create a VPN tunnel for each of them. Thus, if an organization uses a VPN concentrator, its employees can securely connect to the company’s home network from anywhere in the world.

VPN concentrators stand at the forefront of the network, usually beneath or next to a firewall. It is a hardware device that comes with dedicated software that supports a specific number of VPN connections. A VPN concentrator does a similar job to a VPN (encrypts outgoing and incoming data and uses security protocols to create safe tunnels), but on a larger scale.

People rarely use these devices in private settings — they are mostly implemented in large corporate enterprises with many remote employees. Military or other organizations, where a secure remote connection is vital, also extensively use VPN concentrators.

What does a VPN concentrator do?

Here are the primary functions of a VPN concentrator:

  • Creating encrypted tunnels to secure your traffic. It can create multiple VPN tunnels in a single network;
  • Authentication of users who access the centralized system;
  • Encryption and decryption of data;
  • Assigning IP addresses to users;
  • Ensuring end-to-end encryption from a centralized network to a remote client.

Using VPN concentrators helps companies ensure the same level of protection for all their employees.

You should consider using a VPN concentrator only if you operate a large business, as its maintenance costs are quite high. For a smaller number of users, a VPN router may be a sufficient protection measure, as it is much cheaper and easier to maintain. However, it is quite difficult to configure a VPN router for a larger number of connections, so a VPN concentrator is a more convenient option in such cases.

VPN concentrators should not be confused with site-to-site VPN services. The latter establish secure connections between fixed locations (for example, several offices), which then can access the same databases and internal systems.

The most popular VPN concentrators

Similarly to VPN services, there are lots of VPN concentrator manufacturers. Their price depends on how many VPN tunnels they can support and their workload capabilities. Here are some of the most popular brands:

  • Cisco Meraki. Cisco is one of the major manufacturers of VPN concentrators. Their concentrators are usually easy to deploy and are suitable for exceptionally large companies;
  • ShoreTel. ShoreTel VPN concentrators allow you to install a remote IP telephony network, which secures IP phones;
  • Aruba. Hewlett-Packard also has a share of the VPN concentrator market. Their products are handy tools to interconnect your corporate system with remote users.

Paulius Ilevičius
Paulius Ilevičius Paulius Ilevičius
Paulius Ilevičius is a technology and art enthusiast who is always eager to explore the most up-to-date issues in cybersec and internet freedom. He is always in search for new and unexplored angles to share with his readers.