Business world has evolved rapidly over the last few years. Much of the evolution is driven by the need to have businesses focus on global logistical and market standards, a situation which differs from the earlier focus on local and regional concerns. With companies having facilities spread in several locations around the world, it has become necessary to maintain a reliable, secure, and fast communication between various departments. Until recently, this has only been achievable through the utilization of leased lines, a scenario which has helped to maintain wide-area-networks, WANs. Leased lines range from ISDN, i.e., Integrated Services Digital Network to Optical Carrier-3, OC3 fiber. The lines provide enterprises with the means to expand the existing private networks beyond the immediate geographical areas (Appleby 2009, 2-5).
The expansion of enterprises’ networks does present obvious advantages as compared to such a public network as the Internet. For instance, security, performance, and reliability are enhanced. Nevertheless, maintaining WANs proves to be expensive, and this is especially so when enterprises utilize leased lines. The costs skyrocket with the increase in distance between the offices in question. Moreover, leased lines have proved not to be viable options, especially for those organizations that have mobile work forces, for instance, where the workforce involves marketing staff. This is due to the fact that the staff members ought to connect with the organization’s corporate network from the remote location. In fact, some of the data being accessed is sensitive, a situation which lowers the effectiveness of the organization performance. As the popularity of the Internet grows, several business enterprises have opted to utilize the capacity of the Internet for the purpose of extending the accessibility to local networks (Feilner 2006, 7-9). The advancement in technology has enabled enterprises to create Virtual Private Networks, VPNs, and these have enabled them to accommodate the requirements of distant offices as well as remote employees.
A typical Virtue Private Network is usually supported by a Local-Area Network, LAN, which is managed from the company’s corporate headquarters. Nevertheless, there are other LANs at various facilities and remote offices, and these enable individual users to connect from remote locations, such as out in the field. VPNs are private networks which utilize such public networks as the Internet for the purpose of connecting to remote sites as well as other users. Instead of utilizing such dedicated and real-world connections as leased lines, VPNs utilizes virtue connections which are routed from an enterprise’s private network to remote sites over the Internet (Stair & Reynolds 2009, 80-83).
Types of Virtual Private Networks
There are two basic categories of VPNs: Remote-Access and site-to-site VPNs.
The Remote-Access is also referred to as a Virtual Private Dial-up Network, VPDN, and it is a user-to-LAN connection which is utilized by the enterprises whose employees seek to connect to private networks from multiple remote locations. Typically, corporations create Internet dial-up accounts for the purpose of reaching remote-access VPNs, an accomplishment which is facilitated by the Internet service providers. Most remote-access VPNs do permit encrypted and secure connections between private networks and remote users, and this happens through third-party service providers (Calhoun 2000, 10-14).
The utilization of dedicated equipments coupled with large-scale encryption enable companies to connect multiple fixed sites through such public networks as the Internet. Each site is required to have a local connection with a similar public network, and this facilitates the unprecedented savings of resources which would have, otherwise, been utilized during the installation of privately owned leased-lines. Site-to-site VPNs are further grouped into either extranets or intranets. Those VPNs which serve offices and departments in the same company are referred to as the intranet VPNs. On the other hand, those that connect a company with its stakeholders are referred to as the extranet VPNs (Fowler 1999, 12-23).
Properly designed VPNs benefit enterprises through a number of ways. For instance, they:
- extend the geographic connectivity;
- minimize operational costs;
- minimize travelling costs as well as the time it takes for data to be transited to and from a remote user;
- enhance productivity;
- enhance network topology;
- avail the universal networking opportunities;
- avail support for a telecommuter;
- hasten the Return On Investment (ROI).
The most important features for any VPN include:
- policy management;
- network management.
Technologies Utilized in VPNs
Properly-designed VPNs utilize several methods for the purpose of keeping various pieces of data and connections secure. In VPNs, data confidentiality is achieved through encryption. In most instances, VPNs utilizes an appropriate protocol for the purpose of providing encryption. This protocol could be IPsec, PPTP/MPPE, or L2TP/IPsec. The IPsec or the Internet Protocol Security avails enhanced features, which facilitates intriguing encryption algorithms. IPsec provides two modes of encryption: transport and tunnel. Usually, the tunnel mode facilitates the encryption of header as well as the payload. On the contrary, only the payload is encrypted in the transport mode. PPTP/MPPE, unlike the IPsec, does not provide the encryption of data. The L2TP/IPsec, or the L2TP over IPsec, provides IPsec protocol with security as it tunnels over Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) (Gupta 2003, 45-46).
VPN Optimized Router/VPN Enabled Router
This network utilizes Cisco optimized and enabled routers. Those Cisco routers that run Cisco IOS software are capable of supporting the IPsec VPNs. However, there is a requirement that the router should run the Cisco IOS images that have an appropriate feature set. The main advantage of Cisco IOS VPN solutions is that they fully support remote access as well as the intranet and extranet capacities. As such, Cisco routers do work in an appropriate manner when they are connected to remote hosts, especially when these hosts happen to be running on VPN-Client software. It works equally well when connected such VPN devices as routers, PIX Firewalls, and VPN Concentrators. Routers enabled with VPN have proved to be appropriate, especially where tunneling and moderate encryption requirements are necessary.
Utilizing the aforementioned routers facilitates routing, scalability, quality of service, and security. With these routers, there exists a device that suits every situation. For instance, there are those devices that facilitate small-office or home-office, SOHO, access; and this happens through a centralized VPN aggregation. Additionally, there are those devices that help to meet the needs of large-scale enterprises. These routers are designed in a manner that meets tunneling and high encryption requirements. Their designs provide for additional hardware, for instance, encryption cards, and this hardware facilitates the achievement of high performances (Guichard & Apcar 2003, 20-25).
Cisco’s Secure PIX Firewall
The Private Internet eXchange (PIX) Firewall is a combination of dynamic network address-translations, proxy server, firewall, VPN capabilities, and packet filtration in a piece of hardware. This device utilizes an operating system that is more streamlined than the Cisco IOS software. Though its operating system lacks the capacity to handle varied protocols, it is extremely robust and, therefore, its performance is unprecedented. Just like the Cisco routers, PIX Firewall models facilitate the use of IPsec VPN. Nevertheless, the utilization of the VPN feature necessitates licensing, and after licensing, the feature can be utilized as the enterprise or client finds it to be fit (Carmouche 2007, 90-100).
Cisco’s VPN Clients
Cisco avails both software and hardware VPN clients. The Cisco VPN Client, i.e., the software, is installed on the host, and it is used for the purpose of connecting to the centralized concentrator or such VPN devices as routers and firewalls. The VPN 3002 Hardware Client serves as an alternative deployment of the VPN-Client on all the machines and this avails VPN-connectivity several devices.
The Mobilization of Technology
Smart-phone devices have been the new sensations in the world, and their number increases by the day. They have been having a remarkable impact on business and work. The potential of smart-phones to dissolve the boundaries that traditionally separated work and home life has been incredible. Smart-phones are being adopted rapidly and they are undeniably going to advance both private and work-based communication in the years to come (Olson 1965, 3-6).
Basically, a smart-phone is a kind of mobile phone that is built on a mobile computing platform and has more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a contemporary feature phone. While, initially, they were designed to integrate functions of a personal digital assistant (PDA) as well as camera phone, smart-phones today have diversified capabilities. These include combined functionalities of portable media players, GPS navigation units, as well as low-end compact digital cameras. Smart-phones in the present-day market are, indeed, composed of complex features that include high-resolution touch-screens, high-speed data access via Wi-Fi coupled with mobile broadband, and web browsers capable of accessing (Olson 1965, 3-6). They also consist of properly displaying standard web pages and mobile-optimized sites. Essentially, smart-phones have become the wireless devices which enable people to manage their calendars, make phone calls, as well as browse the Internet besides receiving and answering e-mails as well as text messages from anywhere and at anytime (Tilly 1998, 5-8).
Smart phones are becoming and will continue to become extremely influential in people’s lives. By and large, smart phone devices have come with a greater capacity to function, irrespective of one's location, bringing about the phenomenon of continuous mediated interactions commonly referred to as “constant touch”, or “perpetual contact”, or connected relationships. Smart phone devices have indeed blurred the once great boundary between presence and absence, creating more distinctive and intense ways of connectedness (Wilson 1973, 23-26).
An increasing number of workers are taking up smart-phones for what it does for them in terms of work itself. Along with tablets and other portable computing services, smart-phones are being liked by most knowledge workers. This is because of the efficiency and increased familiarity to use the device in managing both work data and private functionalities. The smart-phone devices are getting workers more comfortable because they are neither limited to the physical confines of the office nor regular business hours (Wilson 1973, 23-26). Smart-phones are transforming the timing together with the pace of doing business, enabling instant connection and collaboration of business partners.
In the same light, smart-phones have also come as a blessing to bosses and employers. The gadgets have provided employers with the new possibility of being in touch with their employers around the clock. This perpetual interaction has encouraged more output essentially because the access to real applications from anywhere anytime allows to work more in more places. Smart-phones have enabled workers to access key corporate resources from the comfort of their homes or even social/recreational places, which means that employers are able to rely on them to get key pieces of information when it is most valuable like, for instance, during decision-making. The instant messaging and Web conferencing tools that smart-phones are able to provide have come in handy in revolutionizing the way things happen in the corporate and labor industries (Wilson 2000, 25-30).
To this end, there is no doubt that the increasing use of smart-phones at work continues to create an environment of nomadic working together with a beneficial network of information flows, plus continual communication between worker and boss, worker/boss with clients. In this respect, the ability of smart-phones to keep connected at all times at all places has expanded the expectations of availability and responsiveness not to forget coordination (Oliver 1999, 14). This is what has informed the decision of some organizations to avail smart-phones to their employees – the devices raise the flexibility of the workforce, boost productivity and communication efficiency. In addition, smart-phones are coming in handy in terms of improved responsiveness, faster decision-making, real time information, and much more flexibility in work schedules. This last impact of smart-phones is particularly affording individuals the chance to realize a better work-balance.
The impact of smart-phone on the private life of individuals is equally massive. As it is at the moment, a typical or average smart-phone user is doing downloading of hundreds of applications so as to customize their device to their taste. In doing so, we are spending a considerable amount to ourselves with the new-found friend, the smart-phone, trying to stuff it with personal data. We are making a good use of numerous apps available in our smart-phones (Marwell & Pamela 2004, 26-27). These include using the apps to secure our passwords, play mind boggling games, to-do list, retrieve vast entertainment content like movies, music and books, as well access and respond to trails of e-mails.
It appears as if smart-phones are fast becoming the remote controls of the digital life. The smart-phone will grow into the brain at the heart of everything interactive and connected to the web. Smart-phones are currently being used to pay hosts of bills from the comfort of the home environment, and people will not have to step out and queue (Klandermans 1984, 58-60). Smart-phones are going to become the gadgets that will be relied upon to start the engines of the private vehicles and ring the door alarm among other errands that ordinarily were done manually.
Furthermore, the era when smart-phones will be the know-it-all gadgets is not far away. Time is coming when smart-phones will know beforehand when an individual should go out for a jog or when one can commute. It will illustrate just how the weather shall turn out and thus inform your decision on the right type of dressing for the day. The smart-phone is also bound to manage individuals’ private lives in the sense that it would be able to do such tasks as contact your personal car just in time and figure that more gas is needed and, thus, suggest the nearest pocket-friendly gas station (Molisch 2012, 30-33).
To this end, it is evident that the impact of smart-phones in both professional and personal lives is far reaching in the most positive ways. It is evident that the utilization of smart-phones has made work faster and more convenient while improving the routines of personal lives. Without this marvelous piece of technology, one would feel as if he/she is out of place in the modern society owing to his/her inability to keep abreast with global events or trends. The connection to one's personal life that the smart-phone is able to establish is unmatched, besides playing an all-important function of striking a balance between work and personal life. The iPhone with its features of email, maps, photos, voice recording, iTunes; BlackBerry with its features of email, instant messaging, built-in camera, Internet, social networking capabilities, maps, GPS, etc. have transformed our lives and continues to do so to our utmost delight for the better (Leitner 2010, 25-30).