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Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
2003-06-20 life & times
Access the office using a Virtual Private Network
by Kim Komando
Listen to Kim each Saturday from 12p.m.-1p.m. on WKYH 600 AM, Paintsville.

Technology has come to the rescue of everyday at-home workers, telecommuters, and travelers who need to access office networks. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), it does not matter where you may be sitting to get the work done. You can write reports, check e-mail, use the Web and more just as if you were there in person.

VPNs sound complicated, and they are, when you get into the details. But the theory is pretty simple. Through a combination of hardware and software, a remote computer is connected to a corporate network. The person operating the remote computer works as if he or she were in the home office. VPNs are also used to connect remote networks to one another or to headquarters.

The VPN is necessary because you are accessing the network via the Internet. The VPN provides security by encrypting the data that is exchanged with the network. This is especially important if the remote computer is using Wi-Fi (802.11b), which is notorious for poor security.

The virtual private network is transparent to the user. The computer acts just as it would if it were in the office. But VPNs can be very complicated. There are several standards, and configuration of all the parts is difficult.

Perhaps the easiest route is through Windows or Apple's OS X 10.2. With just a few clicks, a remote computer using Windows can be configured to access the company server. To do that:

—Click Start>Control Panel>Network

—Double-click Network Connections

—Under Network Tasks, click Create a new connection. Click Next

—Click "Connect to the network at my workplace." Click Next

—Select "Virtual Private Network connection, and click Next

—Enter the company name. Click Next

—Select dialing instructions and click Next

—Enter the office server's name or IP (Internet Protocol) number (check with your system administrator, if necessary) and click Next

—Select who can use the connection and click Next

—Save the connection so you can continue to use it

In OS X 10.2, open Internet Connect in the /Applications folder. Then:

—In the File menu, select New VPN Connection Window

—Enter the server address (check with your system administrator, if necessary)

—Enter your username and password

—Select Add to Keychain and click Connect

Setting up a VPN from scratch is much more difficult. Assuming you are running Windows server software, a VPN application is available. You may have to add it from your installation disc. That has to be configured. In addition, most businesses have a router and firewall. Those also will have to be configured. A system administrator should be able to do this. A do-it-yourself business owner will probably struggle.

Business travelers often use wireless (Wi-Fi) networks, which have notoriously poor security. But at least one network—Boingo—includes a virtual private network with each account. Boingo ( has more than 1,200 locations, known as hotspots, around the United States.

Subscribers automatically receive a VPN from Boingo. The VPN provides a secure connection between the user, who might be in an airport or hotel lobby, and a Boingo server. The user connects with an office server and transmits and receives data over the Internet, with the Boingo server acting as an intermediary. The data is encrypted, so that it cannot be read on the Wi-Fi portion, which is used by the Boingo customer.

There are good alternatives to VPNs, if constant use isn't required. The easiest to use is GoToMyPC (www.gotomypc. com), which makes your office computer available over the Internet. Then at home or from any computer with Internet access, go to the GoToMyPC Web site. Enter your account information and in moments, you are connected to the office computer.

The connection is encrypted. The cost is $19.95 per month. Other programs, including PCAnywhere and LapLink, also allow manipulation of the office computer.

Copyright 2003, WestStar TalkRadio Network. All rights reserved.

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