If you’re a frequent traveler who regularly connects to a distant home or office by dialing direct, you must be the toast of your long-distance phone company.
Fortunately, there’s a more economical solution. Virtual private networking (VPN) is a fancy way of saying, “Your remote computer can become part of your host network, using the Internet as a connection instead of a long distance phone connection.” Yes, this does sound exactly like the direct-dialing feature described above—except this time, you don’t pay any long-distance bills, your host PC doesn’t necessarily have to have its own phone line, and (if the computers on both ends have fast connections) you’re not limited to the sluglike speeds of dial-up modems.
With a VPN connection, both the host and the remote computers connect to the Internet by making local calls to your Internet service provider (ISP). If you travel with a laptop, that’s a good argument for signing up with a national or international ISP that has local access numbers wherever you plan to be. On the other hand, if you don’t move your computers around much, you can just use your regular ISP as you always do, whether you connect using a dial-up, a cable modem, DSL, or whatever.