Jump Server vs. VPN What’s the Difference
Online security and privacy have become synonymous with each other. The multi-billion-dollar industry spans services like Anti-Virus software, Two-Factor Authentication, and a host of many more. Two of the ones that stand out are VPNs and Jump Servers.
The difference between a jump server and a VPN is that a jump server is used by businesses to secure a private network from outsiders, while a VPN is used by individuals to secure their browsing history information and location data from ISPs, hackers, and webmasters.
In this article, you will learn more about jump servers and VPNs. More importantly, you will learn the pros and cons of each alongside a rundown on which one is right for you.
Jump Server: A Brief Overview
A jump server is a virtual machine that helps secure one’s private network by forcing traffic to sensitive devices to go through a single secure point. If you are a company that allows customers access to an online service hosted on your private network, you have a potential data-security risk.
Let’s suppose you are a matchmaking service, and users can visit your platform to create their websites, find partners through an algorithmic discovery tab, and send messages. Where is all this activity stored? If the customer creates their profile on one mobile device and logins from the other, their profile information is the same.
That shows that the data is stored on the company’s server. So when your customers’ profiles are on your server, you have to allow them access to your server. And while most users won’t really have anything in mind other than using your services, hackers can use this access to then target other devices on your private network.
Your private network is not just the customers’ profile data but also your accounting information (on your accountant’s PC) and your employee data (on your HR manager’s PC). This is where Jump Servers become relevant. This is where you have to use a jump server. Your HR manager and your accountant will have to first login to the jump server and then access the data relevant to their work through it.
By making your truly private network be in a zone that is as cut off from the internet as possible with a jump server being the only point of access, you make sure that people accessing the internet-connected parts of your other servers (like the ones hosting customer profiles) don’t allow hackers to sneak into servers that have sensitive data.
Pros of Jump Servers
Below is a list of the advantages afforded by jump hosting technology.
Secure Your Private Network
Anytime you connect to the internet, you create a vulnerability in the security of your private network. And while you may not have a company like Facebook or Tinder that gives millions of people access to their servers for profile picture hosting and other services, your employees are still connected to the internet with the same devices privately networked within the company.
At home, if you have a private network, your connection to the internet could risk your family’s devices as well. That is why when you use public WiFi; your laptop may give you a security advice prompt asking you not to give it ‘home network’ status because anyone connected to the public WiFi may be able to hack into your device.
Since any connection to the internet is risky for a multi-device network, Jump servers act as a buffer, with only those who have administrative access being able to access the servers. This pretty much cuts off the outside traffic from getting access to the company’s sensitive information.
Make Hacking Devices Irrelevant
If you have a private network, you want to make hacking of one device completely useless in accessing data on others. If you do not account for that, one employee downloading self-propagating spyware could lead to a rival company getting access to all of your network’s devices.
They would not only know what you earn through access to accounting files but will also know your marketing strategies, future procurement orders, and sales information. With a jump server, you make a hack of one device irrelevant because the information isn’t really stored on the device’s hard drive but on a server behind a jump box.
As long as the hacker does not access the login credentials to a jump server, your information is safe.
Allow You to Provide Online Services
In the absence of security measures like a jump-server implementation, you would not be able to provide any service over the internet. For instance, take the example of customer service. Since the agent often needs to access the customer’s computer online, there is quite a direct connection between his device and the device of the customer on the other end.
Any web-based service, be it email, web-hosting, or ordering food online, relies on all customers having compartmentalized access to the same set of servers.
Any company that provides these services cannot possibly host its internal function data on the same server. A jump server allows companies to provide services online while securing their private network via a single point of access.
Cons of Jump Servers
Jump servers aren’t used as the universal method of securing a network for several reasons. Below are some of these drawbacks.
Useless for Non-Networked Devices
If you have a device that you are protecting with a password, having a jump server that requires yet another password to access a drive placed behind it is not just complicated; it is redundant. If you don’t own a business with a private network, chances are a jump server cannot do much for you. In fact, you can search for jump server providers and will find a hundred percent of them targeted towards business owners.
That is because even in your home, all your devices are not connected to each other in any useful manner. While you may make a temporary Bluetooth connection with your spouse, your mobile phone is not connected to her laptop at all times. As most of your devices work solo, simple password protection on each is all that’s needed.
Single Point of Vulnerability
Having a jump server is good when you have multiple employees you can trust. But if one of your employees goes rogue and gives someone else access to your jump server, all the other employees are at risk of getting their work data stolen. Think of the jump server like a security guard. If you have one security guard at a gated community, him getting compromised leads to every house in the enclave becoming vulnerable.
Complicated to Set Up
If you own an IT business, chances are you not only need a jump server but will be able to easily implement one, but if you own any other business and have your network established by a third-party, chances are you will need them to come and help you establish your jump server.
VPNs: A Brief Overview
VPNs are Virtual Private Networks that allow you to access the internet through a virtual server with a different IP to the IP of your device. While your device is accessing a remote server just like some private network devices do through a jump box, you are not necessarily going through a single point of use.
The end result of a VPN is that your browsing activity is masked from your Internet Service Provider. Your location information is hidden from the webmaster whose website you visit. This is accomplished mainly by switching your IP address, which you should understand in order to get the true value of VPNs.
If you are familiar with country dialing codes or a carrier code, you know that phone number formats imply more information about a person using the phone than just their unique identification. An international phone number has a format that allows you to see which country the user is in.
Since the same union of telecom service providers came up with IP addresses, their formatting conventions give away the user’s precise location data. That is why reverse IP lookup services online can find a user’s location down to a block. This is especially true for those using a WiFi connection instead of mobile data.
This would not be alarming if you could only give your IP to a few people like you do with your phone number. But your IP address is actually visible to everyone whose website you visit. Big data companies are notorious for collecting user data from different data points.
This is especially dangerous when you sign up for a website, and they can attach your email to your IP address. Someone could simply use your email and your IP address to reverse engineer your online browsing behavior.
Pros of VPNs
Earlier, you learned about the threats to your privacy posed by the existence of easily traceable IP addresses. In this section, we look at the benefits of VPNs that help in this regard and for other purposes.
Hide Your Location From Webmasters
When you visit a website, its analytics can log your IP address. If someone got too curious, he or she could reverse engineer your location. To simplify this while emphasizing the privacy risk, let’s give your IP address a simple name. Let’s say your IP address is ‘John’s IP’ (actual addresses are in a numeric format).
Let’s suppose you visited Website A, Website B, and Website C., each of the webmasters, have your IP information. If a conglomerate named ‘Big Advertisers Inc.’ starts offering Websites A through Z millions of dollars to buy IP data of their hundreds of thousands of users, all the conglomerate has to do is put the IP addresses in a machine-learning algorithm.
The algorithm will cross-reference IP addresses across all the websites and reverse engineer your browsing history alongside the history of hundreds of thousands of people who have visited these twenty-six sites.
While the conglomerate may not know your name, they will know that ‘John’s IP’ visited websites A, B, and C. Here’s where it gets even more dangerous. What if you signed up for one company with your name, mobile phone, and email address.
If just one of the hundreds of websites you visit sell your email and name alongside your IP address, the conglomerate instantly knows that it wasn’t just John’s IP that visited websites A, B, and C, but it was John Doe who did it using Johns IP.
Because these big data aggregators aren’t visible to us, we believe our information is compartmentalized, and no one can really see our search history unless they get hold of our devices. That’s not exactly true.
A VPN helps make sure your web history is safe by keeping web owners from knowing who you are. This keeps them from piecing back your activity through a data aggregator.
Keep Snooping ISPs From Getting Hold of Your Activity
One of the most eye-opening cases in US history was one where HBO sued an individual for uploading their content. How was HBO even able to know that? HBO forced the ISP to give that information under subpoena. This revealed to a majority of the American public that ISPs could pretty much track everything you do online. They know the sites you visit and most of the data packets you send.
In some countries, governments work with ISPs or own ISPs and track certain people put on watchlists. While there is no evidence that your current ISP may be doing that, from what Edward Snowden leaked, it seems like most ISPs are willing to cooperate with the government to give such information away.
A VPN makes your activity go through a proxy. The ISP can then see that you connected to the proxy but can’t see anything beyond that. This is the case when you use a high-quality VPN that actively avoids WebRTC leaks.
Allow You to Access Geo-Restricted Web Services
When you are streaming content on Netflix and even YouTube, the chances are that some of the country-exclusive content is left off. One of the chief examples of this is Netflix Japan, which has a licensing deal with many Anime studios to show its content in Japan only. As a result, you cannot watch One Piece on Netflix while abroad.
With a VPN, you can access videos blocked by country and country-exclusive content because the proxy server you connect to before visiting the site has an IP address in a different country. Most VPN providers give a list of different countries like ExpressVPN, which allows its users 94 countries to choose from.
Cons of VPNs
While VPNs have their advantages, there is a reason why the president of the United States doesn’t use one for privacy. In this section, we explore the various drawbacks of using a VPN.
Location Can Leak
One of the biggest drawbacks of using a VPN is that your true location can leak. Therefore getting a VPN becomes something similar to buying a parachute with a probability that it might not open. The exact purpose of a VPN is what it ends up failing to serve.
How to fight this drawback: The first thing you can do is run a free WebRTC test after installing a VPN. A WebRTC test will show you your proxy location and your real location alongside both IPs if your location is leaking. If your location is not leaking, it will let you know where you seem to be from a web owner’s POV.
While premium VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN actively shield their customers from such leaks, it is advisable to run this test at the beginning of every browsing session.
Service May Stop
When you invest in a VPN subscription, you are paying a company that houses servers that you use as your web browsing proxies. But as is the case with relying on servers owned by a company, the service may stop working. For smaller VPN companies, there is a chance they may shut down altogether. If you have paid for the whole year, you would be left with a limited server list or no service altogether.
Furthermore, there is a very real chance that the website you are trying to access with your VPN connection has gotten better at detecting proxies and stops you from visiting altogether. You may be wondering why this is the case. In terms of streaming services, the provider is liable if it does not do the best it can to keep people in unlicensed locations accessing its content.
The US-exclusive rights holder for streaming One Piece Anime could sue Netflix for not doing anything against people in the US who access One Piece Anime on Netflix Japan via a Japanese VPN proxy. Therefore, Netflix continuously invests in getting better at blocking proxy users from viewing its content. So one day, you might be watching Netflix japan, and the next day your VPN might stop working for Netflix.
Even general websites have gotten more restrictive about allowing people with proxies to view their content. That is because they make a bulk of their revenue while advertising online. And online advertisers pay for targeting by location. So hundreds of thousands of websites are actively using webmaster tools to block VPNs.
How to fight this drawback: The only way to make sure the service you get is consistent is to only get the VPN service that is used by at least a hundred thousand paying users. When hunters of thousands of people rely on a VPN and pay hundreds of dollars every year, the provider relies on improving its service to retain millions of dollars in revenue.
For instance, ExpressVPN has a history of getting detected by Netflix and then using its own research and development to improve its service to the point that Netflix can still be accessible with the VPN. With such providers, you can be sure that if their service falls behind, they have millions to lose and will improve and make sure your IP remains undetected.
Which One Should You Use?
While both VPN and Jump Servers help with securing information, they secure different information content, which makes each service geared towards a completely different end. That is why you can use both the services or just one, depending on what your end goal is. That is why you need to look at these services from the lens of your requirements.
Who Should Use a Jump Server?
Look at the following descriptors and see if you fit one or more of these. If you do, chances are you need a jump server.
You Have an Office With Multiple Devices Connected to Each Other
If you are a business owner and have a set of devices connected in a private network, you have the risk of making all the devices vulnerable to a hack if one of them installs the wrong file. It is then advisable to use a jump server that will put your private shared server behind a single point of entry.
You Provide a Service Online
If you are an IT or Software as a Service (SaaS) provider, chances are you are giving people over the internet the privilege to access data hosted on your servers. This can lead to hackers bypassing your firewall as service-users and wreaking havoc within your private network.
It is then advisable to have a DMZ, which is like a buffer and placing all the information that needs to be accessed by your users in this space. And for your private network, you should implement a Jump Server that requires credentials from all administrators and employees before accessing the content of your isolated server.
You Are a Business Owner
You may have the tendency to underplay the value of a jump box if you don’t have a private network in your office. Small businesses can sometimes just rely on the email between colleagues with individual work machines. However, this is very insecure, and you may be liable to data exploits that happen because of such a lax attitude towards online security.
For instance, an ex-employee can sue you if their resume is accessed by a hacker getting into your HR manager’s laptop. So if you have multiple employees, then you need to first establish a private network and then place a jump server to make sure your work data is as secure as possible.
Who Should Use a VPN?
Since most quality VPN services charge a subscription fee, you have to be sure you need one before investing in one. Look at the descriptors below and see if any of these resonate with you.
You Want to Access Geo-Restricted Services Online
If you want to browse a specific version of Netflix or want to download an app that is not available in the country of your residence, you simply opt for a VPN and connect to a server abroad.
With a proxy IP address in any country of your choice, you can watch content exclusively available there, match with people on Tinder in that vicinity, and browse the apps available on that country’s AppStore or Play Store.
You Want to Access Blocked Websites
Some countries compel their Internet Service Providers to block access to certain websites. Furthermore, some employers enforce an access ban on particular recreational websites at work. Either way, by using a VPN that can bypass this by connecting to a different IP address, you can browse whichever website you want.
You Don’t Want People Gleaning Your Internet History
If you believe your ISP having access to your browsing history is risky or that webmasters being able to figure out your digital identity is not good, you need to use a reliable VPN to mask your identity online.
While you may not log in to every website you visit, their Facebook pixels and Google Analytics are actively building a digital model of you that includes all the websites you visit. By clearing cooking regularly and using a VPN at all times, you can prevent this.
You Use a WiFi Connection Instead of Mobile Data
Do you know that the history of your browsing activity is saved on your WiFi router? Yes, every domain you visit gets recorded on the device. This means that anyone with access to your physical router or even a connection to your WiFi can find out the websites you have been visiting.
While they may not be able to glean specific pages you visited within a website, they will be able to find out the domains you visited. If you want to prevent this, you have to always use a VPN when you use a WiFi connection, whether it is at home, work, or in public places.
While VPN and Jump Servers both protect your data from unwanted access, they serve different purposes. A VPN is great if you want to keep your location data and browsing activity relatively anonymous on the web, while a jump server helps you secure a private network in your home or at the office by creating a single entry point that you can secure and tightly monitor.