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December 12, 2018
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Comparing IP VPN With MPLS VPN
A look at the costs for private lines, IP VPN and MPLS VPN solutions for WAN networking.

By: John Shepler

Security is an issue anytime you send data into a cloud network. One way to ensure that your data cannot be observed or tampered with is to build your own WAN network from point to point private lines. Another approach is to use a virtual private network that runs on resources that you don’t have exclusive use of. That’s what is meant by a VPN.

Private Lines Are Secure But Expensive
The beauty of using dedicated private line connections is that you are in control of both access and resource utilization. You need to manage bandwidth demand and packet priority. What you don’t have to worry about is someone else crowding you for resources. There is no one else. If you are really concerned about malicious parties tapping into your line surreptitiously, you can chose to encrypt the data while it traverses the WAN connection. That’s the ultimate in network security. It’s also the highest cost approach.

What’s attractive about VPN solutions is that they are much less expensive to lease and require fewer resources on your part. Both the cost and resource savings come from sharing the facilities with other parties. The Internet is a prime example of how massive utilization can drive down costs. If you want to really minimize costs, a shared access connection, such as DSL or Cable broadband, is the cheapest approach by far.

The Internet is Cheap But Insecure
The same things that make the Internet cheap also make it insecure. Anybody and everybody worldwide can connect to the Internet for what you are paying or less. Perhaps they’re using a public library or WiFi hotspot network without paying a cent. Many of these networks make no effort to even verify user identity. It’s the perfect breeding ground for mischief makers and criminal activities.

Fortunately, there is a way to secure your data as it traverses the Internet. The trick is encryption. You encrypt your data packets using a key that only you know. Anyone else who has access to your data stream sees only gibberish. A popular standard for doing this is called IPsec for IP security. It requires hardware and/or software that you manage at each location for the encryption/decryption process.

IP Sec Adds Security To The Internet
IPsec lets you create a virtually private network out of the Internet, a completely public network. This is generally what is meant by the term IP VPN. One big advantage of this IP VPN approach is that laptop computers can be configured with this system to give corporate access to remote or home workers. All that’s needed is the VPN enabled computer and a broadband Internet connection.

While the Internet is cheap, it offers no guaranteed performance. You take your chances on network congestion, packet corruption, latency and jitter. File transfers generally work fine, but voice and video can degrade without warning. Many businesses want a more reliable network to connect their branch offices, warehouses, retail locations, and so on.

MPLS Networks Offer Security and Cost Advantages
MPLS networks come to the rescue as an improved form of virtual private network. The MPLS network doesn’t have public access, but it is a shared resource. Your costs are reduced compared to dedicated private lines because the cost of regional, national or international connections are amortized across the total user base. What makes MPLS networks a VPN solution is that your data connections are essentially tunneled through the cloud wrapped in proprietary routing labels. You define your connections and the network operator instructs the MPLS network on how to route your packets.

MPLS networks are often referred to as MPLS VPN because they are inherently virtually private. Connections to the network tend to be through dedicated private lines, such as T1 or Ethernet. If you want an even higher level of privacy, you can choose to encrypt your data while it traverses the MPLS network. In addition to improved security compared to the Internet, MPLS networks offer performance guarantees for bandwidth, jitter, latency and packet loss. That makes MPLS VPN a popular choice for mission-critical business applications.

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