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Disadvantages of VPN Tunneling

written by: •edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 6/20/2010

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become commonplace and used in a variety of everyday operations. Though VPNs work well at what they do, disadvantages of VPN tunneling are explored in this article.

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    Disadvantages of VPN Tunneling

    Computer by Free Software Foundation on Wikimedia 

    VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) have become more commonplace in today's computing environment, where users need and want to work from wherever and whenever they want. Though technologies such as virtualization are also growing in popularity, VPNs remain one of the most common forms of remote computing in use.

    VPN tunneling is the part of VPN technology that deals with creating a tunnel through an Internet connection that is safe. That 'tunnel' is how and where data is transmitted. It is through the tunnel where the remote user accesses the main network for files and data, and through the tunnel is also how that information is sent back to the user.

    Though they both use passwords and encryption for security, a disadvantage of VPN tunneling is that the VPN and the tunnel can be compromised, as with any other type of password protected environment. Human error and hacking can occur if password strength is not strong enough. Users can also compromise the main network by tunneling via an unsecure machine. An example of this is a remote worker using his personal computer to access files when his personal computer does not have adequate security measures in place (firewalls, antivirus, etc).

    A different disadvantage deals with productivity and access. Because tunneling deals with packets and encryption through an internet connection, VPN tunneling is oftentimes slower than what typical network users are accustomed to. This is a disadvantage, though not one that causes overt concern as remote users generally just use the VPN to get and send files; they are not dependent on that connection for working. Once files have been transferred to the remote user, they can then work offline or through their own connection and not have to deal with the slower speeds associated with the VPN.

    Though many disadvantages of VPN tunneling have been alleviated with newer versions and variations of the technology over the years the primary concern still remains security. Most of the disadvantages deal directly with users; many security issues revolve around users not taking proper measures to control access and security. This is something that plagues VPNs, and some of the solutions are simply rooted in educating VPN users in better understanding the technology.

    To assist in better securing VPN tunneling there are add-on products and software that can help further secure the network. Remote users need to better understand that while VPNs are a convenient way for users to work remotely and have access to the data and information they need, security needs to be addressed. Policies must be adhered to as opening up a corporate network to the outside world can prove to be devastating. As with most technology, users have more control than they realize, and educating users on how to operate a VPN and why tunneling is useful is a good first step in making sure all users respect the technology and use it in the proper manner.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Computer by Free Software Foundation.