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As more white collar employees are instructed to work from home to contain the spread of COVID-19, there has been an abrupt uptick in VPN usage. It’s estimated VPN use has increased almost 66 percent since March 11, 2020, in the United States — and a whopping 165 percent globally in that same timeframe.

Microsoft develops the first VPN

VPN — acronym for virtual private network — is technology that dates back to 1996 and was the brainchild of Microsoft employees which included Gurdeep Singh-Pall, who was ultimately a Microsoft VP. Singh-Pall and his Microsoft colleagues worked with U.S. Robotics to develop technology known as Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP).

Singh-Pall explained the impact of PPTP during a 2010 patent trial: “It really allowed people to work effectively and securely from home,” he testified. “PPTP was designed so that wherever you were, whatever program you were using on your computer, you would be able to use it just as if you were sitting on your computer at work.”

He further explained that PPTP enabled such connections through high-speed internet as opposed to a modem over a phone line, a connection Singh-Pall aptly described as “slow” and filled with “operatic sounds.”

Although newer VPN protocols have pushed PPTP aside in the 20-plus years since its creation, PC Magazine recognized PPTP as its 1996 Innovation of the Year. “In effect, PPTP makes the internet a part of your intranet, and with excellent security,” the magazine wrote.

Given the current challenges facing the workforce and the economy due to the coronavirus, VPNs might deserve another award in 2020.

Photo: Denys Prykhodov / Shutterstock

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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