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Chris Bennetts - The Virtual Webmaster

Setting up secure and private access to your business network for people in remote locations

April 5, 2016

USING A VPN IN YOUR BUSINESS

VPN Security

The following is a bit technical but I will try to provide a basic understanding without getting too geeky.

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is basically a secure connection between to computers that are remote from each other. By secure I mean that all the communication is encrypted so that others can’t read it.

What many do not realise is that most of the data on the internet is not protected and someone with the skills and access can intercept and read your information.

I was referred to a client who I was told needed help with establishing a VPN so that he could access his server remotely. He operates a law firm with two offices, and wanted staff to be able to access the data on the server when onsite or at home. I was told that he already had a VPN connecting his two offices and just needed to setup remote access.

I visited his office last night and soon learnt that he previously had remote VPN access to his Windows 2012 server working through his router (a special networking box).

His VPN solution is what is described as a hardware solution. This is one of the most robust and secure ways of setting up a VPN. It’s also the most expensive to setup and maintain.

He was looking for a technical resource to fix this existing connection. This was my area of expertise more than a decade ago. I was a Microsoft Certified System Engineer qualified to work on NT servers. I worked as a System Admin for a few years including supporting the Windows servers of the Victorian Police force at one time.

I have not kept up my certification and he was specifically looking for someone with current qualifications to work on his LAN/WAN (Local and Wide Area Network). My focus is more on Web Server admin and while Windows admin is something I could do, it would most likely require a fair bit of research to bring my knowledge up-to-date on the Windows 2012 server, and research on configuring the router. So while I could do it, we agreed I was not the best resource for the job.

There are much cheaper and easier to implement software solutions that can be implemented to provide secure remote access to a business server, and these are what I thought I would be proposing.

With these solutions, software installed at both the business location and the remote computer enable you to remotely take control and use the computer at the other location as if you were sitting in front of it.

I have used these types of applications in the past both to take remote control of client computers to provide support, and to administer servers remotely.

Windows itself actually provides a built in software solution to support remote clients called Windows Remote Desktop. I currently use this to access a VPN I lease in the USA. I can log into individual use accounts and do almost anything one would do a client computer physically connected to the server. This needs to be setup on the server by a system admin.

One of the most popular third party remote access applications is Team Viewer, and there is even a free version. I have used Team Viewer to provide remote support and it’s easy to setup and use. The one I used, as a System Admin to remotely administer servers was VNC, which also has a free version.

I did not suggest these types of solutions to the lawyer, as he wants to get the secure hardware solution he already has working. I am also sure that the current security settings (firewall) in the router would need to be changed to allow these types of applications to work.

If you have a need to remotely access another computer of server check out the options above

About the Author:

Christopher is an IT specialist with 30 years of experience in developing technology working with corporates and SME’s. Chris is a Microsoft Certified System Engineer and holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, as well as numerous certificate based qualifications in technology and application development.

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