Over the years, VPNs have integrated themselves with the internet and the technology surrounding it. Chances are, even if you haven’t used one, you may have at least heard about the term VPN. Given this phenomenal popularity of the service, it’s no wonder that several technical terminologies have permeated into the general user’s diction. One such term is “VPN server” If you have ever wondered what a VPN server is? Or how does a VPN server operate? Then do continue reading.
A VPN is a private and virtual network. It allows the client (device running the VPN application) to connect to a remote server via a VPN tunnel (by using protocols) over a public network like the internet. But what is this server? Put in simpler terms; A VPN server is any device, computer, router, or even a virtual gateway that can be used by the client application (sender/user) to remotely access it and use it to connect to the internet. It can be physical or virtual. Its only function is to receive the encrypted data from the VPN client before sending it further along to its destination after decryption and vice versa. It also acts as a proxy. This article will help you understand the concept of VPN servers.
Note — In this article, we will try to learn more about VPN servers. Not only the types of servers but also about servers in general. We will glean into the workings of a VPN server. And the importance and usage of VPN servers as well.
What does the term server mean?
A server, in computing terms, is a device (physical or virtual: like a software) that provides functionality for other devices (terminals) called “clients” connected to it either by a LAN or WAN. A single server can connect to a single or multiple clients at the same time. This architecture made up of clients and server is what we call the client-server model. Servers provide various functionalities, which we term “services” like sharing data among clients or performing computation for a client. There isn’t a limit on the services a server can perform at any given time. Moreover, a single server can connect to various clients, whereas a single client can also connect to multiple servers.
A server can be any device that can share and save information. Initially, mainframe and microcomputers worked as servers. Then with the advent of technology, servers also became more accessible. Now we can also have a server virtually in the form of cloud computing or storage. A server itself can be a client as well.
The request-response model is one of the most recognized client-server models today. In the request-response, the client initiates the communication with the server. Any computer with dedicated hardware and software can be a server. It makes a server much powerful than a personal computer, though. However, any device that acts as an in-between amongst various individual devices connected to it; and is capable of sharing and storing data is qualified to be called a server.
How does a server operate?
Internet is one of the best examples to understand the workings of a server. Every time you enter the URL in a browser, your device (client) communicates with the server hosting the website and shares the data via WAN (internet) which, then you can see on your device.
However, to function as a server, a device must be configured to listen to, recognize and respond to the requests from clients on a network (be it LAN or WAN). This functionality needs to be a part of the OS infrastructure, software, or even a combination of both.
In the case of a client requiring the services of a server, it will first send a request over the network. The server has to recognize this and respond accordingly. This process is the renowned request-response model, which details how a server works. A server will often perform numerous additional tasks when fulfilling that single request. It includes verifying the requestor, ensuring the client has sufficient permission to access the information, data, or resource, and returning the required response.
Types of servers
There are a lot of servers, depending on the information/data they retain or the computation they perform for their clients. There are even servers categorized according to their scope or specs. Some of those servers are listed below:
- Web server
- Proxy server
- Virtual server
- File server (FTP)
- Application server
- Catalog server
- Database server
- Game server
- Communication server
- Computing server
- Fax server
- Media server
- Print server
- Mail server
What is a VPN server?
Back on the topic, a VPN server runs under VPN providers. It facilitates and provides VPN service to clients specifically. It helps a client remain anonymous as it communicates with the internet in lieu of it. A VPN server also ensures the security of a VPN network, as it handles the online traffic of multiple clients and encrypts/decrypts data as and when needed. The VPN server is a separate hardware device, though specific software can also implement it. A server can, at a time, accept links from many clients. However, a VPN client can only establish a connection with just a single server.
A VPN server is a type of server that enables the hosting and delivery of VPN services. It is a combination of hardware and software technologies that provides a client with connectivity to a secure and/or private network (VPN). It is typically a standard server that has VPN server software installed and configured on it. But despite that, it has separate logical and physical communication ports. The VPN server provides VPN connection and services to remote and or local VPN clients. The server utilizes more than one protocol for connectivity and communication. First, a VPN client has to authenticate itself with a VPN server. It then grants it access to the VPN.
How does a VPN server operate?
The process starts with the user running a VPN client on their device. Which then connects to the VPN server and routes your traffic to it. However, the traffic is encrypted, which the server will decrypt before sending it through the internet. It ensures your privacy as well as security. Afterward, the VPN server will encrypt the data it receives from the internet. It sends it back to the client. Which then will be decrypted by the client for the user to understand.
It works exactly like an imagined tunnel between the VPN server and the client. Any traffic to and from the tunnel is encrypted and therefore inaccessible to anyone outside the tunnel. At the same time, the server will hide the client’s IP address. Since the server provides VPN services, it spoofs the actual IP of the user and replaces it with its own. This service helps the user to bypass geo-restrictions and censorship. It also ensures better privacy for the user.
VPN server software?
Nowadays, servers don’t need to be hardware devices. They can be a cloud computing system or simple software. Indeed, the complete removal of hardware from a server infrastructure is still not possible, as software and been cloud storage need pieces of hardware to work. But by relying on these, one can improve the capabilities of the server itself. On the topic of software, one has to note that a VPN server software is the one that allows a server to offer VPN services. Such pieces of software are developed around protocols that facilitate VPN communication and transportation of data. These also configure servers with added security features.
VPN server software uses VPN protocols to encrypt user data and traffic. Commonly a server has more than one protocol to empower the client with their control over the connection. The most common protocol used are:
Importance and usage of VPN servers
A VPN is key to maintaining privacy online. Thus, the importance of a VPN server is self-evident. Ordinarily, when you access a website, your data travels to and from your ISP. As such, whatever you do on the internet is visible to your ISP and anyone else for that matter. (hackers, cybercriminals, advertisers, and even your government.)
You need a VPN service to circumvent all the potential threats. But without a VPN server, a VPN can’t work. If you are a VPN user, you must have experienced that a larger range of VPN servers allows for the best VPN experience. Even commercial VPN providers focus on the quantity and quality of their servers to appear more attractive to the potential user.
Several uses of a VPN server are:
- You can hide our online traffic from our ISP. It can prevent them from throttling your internet speed. It can also prevent them from selling your data to the highest bidder.
- You can remain immune to illegal surveillance.
- Any malicious individual won’t be able to exploit any network weakness (even on an unsecured public connection such as Wi-Fi.) and thus won’t be able to get his hands on your data.
- Since your actual IP address will be hidden, no one can trace you in real-time. Also, at the same time, you can access geo-restricted content or even bypass censorship.
With the latest trend of online surveillance and criminal stalking, using the internet without a good VPN can be pretty dangerous. A VPN server is either a physical server or a VPS through which a VPN provider offers you access to their services. The server not only provides you anonymity, but it also ensures that your online traffic is subject to powerful encryption.
Thus, it is safe to say that you will be more comfortable with a VPN than without one.