Virtual Private Networking

All over the world, frequent travelers connect to distant homes or offices using virtual private networking. VPN is a fancy way of saying, “Your remote computer can become part of your host network over the Internet.”

Note

To make VPN work, both computers require Internet connections; that much is obvious.

The one at home (or at the office) is probably all set. You should, however, put some thought into getting the laptop online. You’ll have to find wireless hotspots, for example, or, if you do this a lot, you can sign up for a cellular modem plan or even a dial-up account.

What corporations like most about VPN is that it’s extremely secure. The information traveling between the two connected computers is encoded (encrypted) using a technology called tunneling. Your connection is like a reinforced steel pipe wending its way through the Internet to connect the two computers.

To create a VPN connection, the host computer has two important requirements. If you’re VPNing into a corporation or a school, it’s probably all set already. Otherwise:

  • It must be on the Internet at the moment you try to connect. Usually, that means it needs a full-time Internet connection, like cable modem or DSL.

  • It needs a fixed IP address. (See the Note below.)

On the other hand, the remote computer—your laptop—doesn’t have any such requirements. It just needs an Internet connection.

Note

Several of the remote-connection methods described in this chapter require that your home-base PC have ...

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