Need help with VPN basics

After searching and reading and getting all mixed up, I decided it would be best to just ask the experts myself :) There´s so much information lying around I don´t know anymore what´s right for me and what isn´t...

Here´s the deal: I need to do some testing with vpn for future needs. Right now, I just want to get some experience with remotely accessing ressources at my office. Later on, a small number of users should be able to simultaniously use vpn for remote access.

I´ve tried to get something done (within one LAN, just for testing purposes) by using the Windows2000 vpn-features but I don´t even know how to access files even though the vpn-connection is established.

We have ADSL with a public IP-Address and a router with no vpn capabilities. My problem is: I don´t know where to start. Do I need hardware, software or both? If a new router would be sufficient, what would be a cheap way to get started?

I´m sure I´ll have more questions as things become clearer (hard to believe that ever happens..), but I´ll let you guide me into the right direction. If you need more information about our network etc. just ask. I´d really appreciate some help!


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In most cases I go with an inexpensive VPN capable router for a small network. It's likely that any server you might have in a small network is also doing many other things like serving files, running as your active directory domain controller, database server, name resolution or all of the above. It's easy to setup the security incorrectly on a server and if that server is also your domain controller and file server then you will just be allowing unrestricted access to the most important resource in your network from the Internet.

I like the Netopia 3386-ENT devices myself. It supports almost all the major VPN protocols for a cheap price (less than $200usd). This device is sufficient for most small networks. If your Internet connection is any faster than 10Mbit then you might consider something a bit better, the Netopia seems to handle your typical 5mbit download/1mbit upload ADSL and Cable modem type connections without slowing down.

As far as gaining access to the resources on your network, this is mostly a separate issue. To gain access to the internal servers once the VPN is established is exactly the same as if you had a WAN link connecting the remote site and the network. You need to make sure that some form of name resolution is working, that means that the VPN server should give out the correct internal DNS/WINS settings to the client so it will be asking the correct server for network addresses. Also when it comes to network browsing you will likely need to type in the server address manually if you are connecting over a dynamic connection like a VPN. Even when you have all the required WINS servers running and the client is resolving the server correctly it can take some serious time before the client will build a local version of the browse list. Just make sure you know the proper names to connect to your servers before you worry about venturing into getting "network neighbourhood" type functionality to work.

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Mike Drechsler - SPAM PROTECTE

Thanks for your Reply, Mike! It help a lot to know that making the vpn connection and accessing resources are two different things - I was really confused about this before. Every article about establishing a vpn in Windows describes how easy and great this feature is, but it always ends there and nobody sais how to get to the ressources after the vpn has been established...

I actually once tried accessing shared ressources using the method of manually typing in the vpn server address, but I thought that to be so complicated it couldn´t possibly be the real solution.

I´ll have a look at the router you mentioned, maybe that will help to understand vpn better, too. Thanks again for your helpful answer!

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Netopia Router will do. I personally like Sonicwalls. You would need to purchase a Sonicwall, the model will depend on the number or users that are on your local network, however, most likely a tz170 will do. You can find pricing on these at many places as in etc. Just google.

The reason I like Sonicwall is that it is relatively easy to setup and they run excellent! Dont waste your time on cheap routers, you will regret it. For a tz170, you are about $375-500 for a 10 user firewall/vpn router. They have a Global VPN client that is simple to setup.

What you would need:

1) A Sonicwall Firewall - most likely tz170 2) Global VPN License - you can buy single , 5 pack, and 10 pack etc.. (for each person accessing the network remotely) 3) VPN Client Software- $40-50

I would recommend getting the 8x5 support option as if you are new, you might need them to walk you through the setup.

Hope that helps!

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