You may not have known that there are multiple different types of VPN. The one that most people are familiar with and is used for the standard home VPN is called a “Remote Access VPN”. This type of VPN uses a VPN client to connect a single device to a VPN server, to make it appear as if your device’s network traffic is coming from the VPN server. The other types of VPNs are the “Site-to-Site VPN” and the “Peer-to-Peer VPN”.
A site-to-site VPN is traditionally used by companies to connect remote office networks together. Instead of using a VPN client on end-user devices, a site-to-site VPN creates a VPN tunnel between the two edge routers of the networks. This type of VPN allows the whole network to communicate with the other remote network. It is also possible to connect more than two networks together allowing seamless communications between multiple offices simultaneously. Another advantage site-to-site VPNs offer businesses is that communications are only encrypted between networks, meaning that full-scale traffic analysis can be performed on each bit of individual network traffic.
A “Peer-to-Peer” VPN is a variant of the “Remote Access” VPN, where the network of VPN servers is run by volunteers rather than by a single corporate entity. The most well-known implementation of a peer-to-peer VPN is the Tor network, where the vast majority of the infrastructure is provided by the community. The peer-to-peer design is ideal for those people that don’t want to trust VPN companies not to monitor their usage. The downside is that the performance of peer-to-peer VPNs can be lower as there’s no dedicated company putting money into ensuring high-quality resources. Additionally, there’s no guarantee that whoever is running the VPN server is trustworthy.
Tip: A “Peer-to-Peer” VPN isn’t a VPN that is used for peer-to-peer file-sharing or connections necessarily. The name comes from the distributed architecture of the network rather than any intended use.
If you’re just wanting a standard VPN to protect your browsing data, then you should probably use a traditional “Remote Access VPN”. If you’re a business wanting to connect multiple office networks together, or if you’re wanting to connect your entire home network to your VPN, you should look into getting a “Site-to-Site VPN” configured on your router. Finally, if you’re distrustful of organisations handling your data and prefer to use distributed systems, a “Peer-to-Peer VPN” should suit you.