What Is a VLAN and Why Is It Important to You

You never imagined you’d have so many workers working from home offices.  You managed to set up some basic security through your firewalls, but not every department is able to access the same set of files on your network when working remotely without opening up access for everyone.   How can you connect specific user groups to the resources they need?  Enter the Virtual Local Area Network!

Evolving the concept of a LAN (Local Area Network), a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) allows devices on separate LANs, or over the internet, to connect virtually to each other by sharing the same broadcast domain. With a VLAN, you can create mini-networks to break large LANs into smaller segments and use each VLAN for various user-groups across geographical areas. By segmenting large LANs into VLANs, you also improve the reliability and efficiency of your network performance, which creates better end-user experiences.

Improved Security

A key benefit of VLAN is an improved security posture – meaning that by using them your company is structured to be more secure. For example, you can use VLAN segmentation to give office guests a segment that’s separate from corporate traffic. VLANs can also limit the access of internal users and specific device types to a specified network segment.

This makes sure segments are accessed only by authorized users and devices, and it’s particularly helpful for segments with systems containing sensitive information, such as the company financial system. For example, the marketing team might be restricted from accessing a segment on which you run your ERP system—no matter which device they use. In contrast, your CFO can access that segment with a corporate laptop, but if they use their personal phone, they will be denied.

You also have the option to deploy different security controls, firewalls, and other defense mechanisms for each VLAN on your network. By taking this approach, a breach of one VLAN segment won’t threaten the entire network.

Cost Savings and Simplified IT Management

By setting up a VLAN configuration, you can also reduce how often you need to upgrade your network, which brings another benefit of VLANs – cost savings. VLANs make this possible by utilizing existing bandwidth and uplinks. Further cost savings comes from simplified IT management, which reduces IT resource requirements.

VLANs that are segmented based on users with similar operating system, application and device characteristics allows IT to streamline the management of the user-groups and devices that use each VLAN. Patches and updates can be rolled out to the entire group quickly, and if there’s a problem that affects all users on a VLAN, they can automatically be switched to another VLAN temporarily until the problem is resolved, and then just as easily be switched back.

End-Users Benefit Too

Your end-users will also appreciate being on a VLAN. Team members like Joe and Mary who work in different offices or from home can easily connect with each other. Even if a user physically moves to a new office, they can still connect to the same VLAN.

Making the switch to VLANs does not require major changes to your physical network. You can set them up based on protocols used by packet traffic or by device characteristics. You can also segment user-groups by running their traffic to specific ports on one of your network switches. While it’s not rocket science, you still want to make sure you set up your VLANs to function efficiently and to deliver the level of security that each segment requires. That’s where it makes sense to talk to your IT partner.

To learn more about implementing VLANs to help your networks run more efficiently and to protect your digital assets, contact PulseOne today