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    Tunneling is used in information technology (IT) to move data or communications across a network using protocols that are not compatible or supported by that network. Learn more about tunneling protocols and their various use cases in this definition.

    What Is a Tunneling Protocol?

    A tunneling protocol is a communication protocol strategy that allows IT teams to share incompatible or private information across a network via communication “tunnels.” This is done by wrapping or hiding the data packets inside other data packets. 

    The most widely used application of tunneling protocols is in virtual private networks (VPN). Concepts of data encapsulation and data layering are used in tunneling protocols to safely carry data through a non-secure network or environment.

    What Do Tunneling Protocols Do and How Are They Used?

    Tunneling protocols are most commonly used for third-party data protection, online streaming, hiding IP addresses, public Wi-Fi use, or bypassing any bandwidth throttling imposed by internet service providers (ISPs). A more advanced use case for tunneling protocols supports remote user access to corporate networks. 

    Tunneling protocols can also be used for malicious intent. For example, malicious actors use tunneling protocols to circumvent the firewall in an operating system.

    Types of Tunneling Protocols

    • Open VPN: This is a type of open source VPN in which each operating system needs its own independent implementation of the VPN.  
    • Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP): L2TP was created as a result of the partnership between Microsoft and Cisco. It runs over a user datagram protocol (UDP) to provide fast and firewall-friendly service. 
    • Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP): Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux users, SSTP requires the client’s system to connect through the transmission control port (TCP). 
    • Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP): This type of tunneling protocol is outdated and rarely used. In legacy networks or systems where it’s still implemented, it can be used to transfer data between enterprise servers. Data is transferred to a remote client through a VPN using a TCP/IP data network.  

    Benefits of Using Tunneling Protocols

    These are a few of the key benefits that can come from applying tunneling protocols to enterprise networks:

    • Secure remote access: Companies can allow their remote employees to securely connect to the corporate network.
    • Data repackaging and data security: Tunneling protocols can protect against hackers and other types of malicious actors by repackaging data in such a way that data traffic does not appear to be part of a private or corporate network. 
    • Expanded web access: Blocked websites and other incompatible resources can be accessed through various tunneling protocols. 

    VPNs are some of the most popular applications of the tunneling protocol. Learn about the Best Enterprise VPN Solutions here.