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A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network and the resources contained in the network across public networks like the Internet. It enables a host computer to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it were a private network with all the functionality, security and management policies of the private network. This is done by establishing a virtual point-to-point connection through the use of dedicated connections, encryption, or a combination of the two.
The VPN connection across the Internet is technically a wide area network (WAN) link between the sites but appears to the user as a private network link—hence the name “virtual private network”.