A virtual private network (VPN) lets you securely access private resources — such as file servers — from outside their network. While setting up a remote access VPN is a technical task likely requiring the help of an IT professional, once it’s been configured, users can connect to your private network and interact directly with files and file servers even if they’re working remotely.
Using VPN to facilitate a connection to a file server on another network can feel very similar to FTP from a casual user’s point of view. Both solutions let you share files over the Internet, offer a familiar folder/file structure, and provide a central hub for all your company’s documents. However, VPN is a much more convenient way to connect to servers and collaborate on files, since it avoids the need to manually upload and download files from a remote server before working with them.
Many companies maintain a local network for internal communications and document sharing, called an intranet. Unlike the Internet, this is typically a private network that’s only available to users that are connected to it directly (i.e., physically inside the office). This presents a serious collaboration issue for remote workers and off-site contractors.
This is where a virtual private network comes into play. A VPN lets remote users access the company’s internal network over the Internet. After establishing a connection, it will seem like the remote user is physically at the office, with the ability to access shared resources on the internal network — like file servers and other shared storage devices.