Thursday, August 25, 2005

Server (#3) VPN Server (#3) VPN

I have known for quite awhile about MSFT Virtual Private Networks (VPN). But I never really looked into them. What they are is a way to securely tunnel through the Internet from one computer to another.

Then, a couple of days ago, I looked up VPN in Help under Win 2K. They looked fairly easy to implement, so I tried it. You configure one connection on the server, and one on the client, using Connection Manager. Then, you connect to the server from the client just like you do a dialup connection. Voila.

Of course, at this point, it was all irrelevant, since I was running locally over a local network at 100 mbs. I couldn't do anything except ping the VPN connection, since any real requests were routed directly over the Ethernet connection. The next step was to disconnect the laptop from the local network and dial in via modem. It turns out that VPN connections even have this built in (and you should use this feature when dialing in to use VPN, so that local requests are routed over VPN before attempting to satisfy them over the dialup connection). After a couple of false starts, got it working.

I should add that you also need a dedicated IP address and something like Win 2K Professional Edition for the server. Win XP Home Edition doesn't appear to provide this - but I only run that on the laptop, and it is the client here (and XP does provide VPN client software).

What you end up with is a highly secure connection (128 bit encryption) that looks like your computer is sitting on the same internal network as the server. My laptop had the same view of the files on the other systems that it had when directy connected to the local network (which it still was physically, but its Ethernet connection had been disabled for this). It even had the same IP address.

I also like the feature that you can use your Windows login from the client (and get those privileges), that you can specify precisely which users can come in (and make sure they are password protected), and that you can control through this what the client user can do. Also, I like that I can specify the IP address for the client machine (same as when directly connected to the local network).

This looks like a great feature for when you are on the road. Indeed, I can receive FAXes in Colorado, and read them elsewhere, by looking at the directories where they are stored. I may even be able to send them from there.

It turns out that my biggest problem was getting through two firewalls, one in the modem, and a second in the router. No different though than getting HTTP or SMTP connections in from the outside.

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2 Comments:

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8:09 AM  

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