Remote Connectivity

Remote Connectivity is all you about being somewhere other than in your office but having your computer behave as if it were still located in the office. It's an excellent way to be productive while traveling or even telecommuting from home since you have access to every resource you would have if you were at work. Remote connectivity can also be used to connect branch or remote offices without the expensive cost of having dedicated digital lines.

The basic technology of remote connectivity is called a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Simply put, you use the public Internet and a set of security protocols to link into your office network. All network traffic is encrypted and authenticated to make sure that no one else can access the information that you are exchanging. This is referred to as a VPN tunnel since only the ends are open while everything else is shielded from public view.

There are three components to a VPN:

  1. A static IP Address at the office
  2. A VPN Server or Device connected to the office network and the Internet.
  3. VPN Client software (Windows XP/Vista already includes a pretty comprehensive VPN client as part of the normal installation.)

Static IP
What is a static IP Address? First, you need to understand what an IP Address is. Basically, an IP Address (Internet Protocol Address) is a unique number used to route traffic to the proper place on the Internet. No two computers or devices can have the same IP address anywhere in the world...period! (We are talking about the public Internet, not the internal network or intranet of a company.)

When you or your company signs up for Internet service, such as DSL or cable, the provider automatically assigns you an IP Address from its available pool of addresses. Nowadays, this process is completely automated and chances are that you aren't even aware of this happening. However, your provider does not guarantee that you will keep the same number from one day to another.

Why is this important? If you are trying to connect to your office network from home, you need to know the address your company's network. If this keeps changing, you basically won't be able to "phone home". That's where static addresses come in. For a small added monthly fee, your Internet provider is willing to provide you with one or more IP Addresses that are dedicated to you or your company. Once this is set, you will always know how to get to your VPN Server.

VPN Server or Device
This is the most important component of a VPN connection. It provides the secure, authenticated and encrypted connection between you and your office network using the big, bad world of the public Internet. A VPN Server can either be a computer that's been set up to act as a VPN Server or a device like a router that accepts incoming VPN requests.

Although the myriad of security and authentication protocols are beyond the scope of this article, it is safe to say that most VPN devices can be set up with some very high level security and encryption. Most network hardware manufacturers offer routers that have a VPN option as part of their normal firewall package. In a Microsoft environment, even a dedicated Windows XP Pro or Vista Business computer can act as a VPN server although it isn't as robust or as versatile as a true server such as Windows Server 2003 or 2008. In addition, Linux computers are being used more and more frequently to provide firewall and VPN functions because of both their speed and low cost.

VPN Client Software
Once you have your server up and running, you need some software on the client side (i.e. your computer) in order to establish the other side of the VPN tunnel. If you use a VPN router on the server side, you may need to also utilize the manufacturer's software on your computer in order to connect. This would normally be free since they make their money off their devices. However, more and more manufacturers are using standard protocols and Microsoft Windows is supporting more of them as well. Therefore, there is a good chance that you already have the necessary software on your computer. Once the parameters have been set up, you would just need to click on the connection icon on your computer desktop and the software will take care of the rest.

Going Mobile...
If you would like the freedom of remote connectivity, please feel free to contact us at Nexiter and we would be happy to go over the options and costs of setting you up. It's a lot less expensive than you think.