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VPN Question

Posted on 2006-04-18
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Last Modified: 2010-03-18
Hi
I have a specific need and I'm told that a VPN may be the answer. Since I have never used or in any way been involved with VPN's, I have no idea if this would work.
My question is whether a VPN would allow the user to work on his Outook email account with no internet connection and sometime later (when internet connection is available) connect and send email?

Here's the detail if you care to read on...
Running Exchange 2003 on a Windows 2003 Server. I have a user that travels often with his laptop and needs access to him email on the road. We would normally set up a laptop with a POP3 account so the user can send and receive mail when outside the office. However, this particular laptop is setup with a regular Exchange account (cached mode). This is because this user needs to sync Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, etc. with Exchange server. The problem is that the laptop cannot send or receive mail unless it's actually connected to the Exchange server (i.e.has to be physically in the office). In the past, we've worked around this problem by having the user access email from either Outlook on the Web or thru a Remote Desktop connection. Unfortunately, this means there must be an active internet connection available otherwise he cannot work at all. The goal is for him to be able to compose email offline, when no internet connection is available, and then later be able to connect and send the emails in the Outbox. Currently, he cannot do this from the laptop because even though he can compose the mail, he cannot send it. Actually, as another workaround, we've recently added a POP3 account to his Outlook and this allows him to compose email from this account and then later send when he connects - however, dealing with 2 different accounts is  cumbersome and far from ideal. I realize that setting up his account as a POP3 would elimiate the problem, but again, this is not an option because all the data would be only on the laptop and not synched with the Exchange server unless done manually.

NOTE: I am aware of a way for Outlook to connect an Exchange account thru the Internet ( RPC Over HTTP). I am exploring that option as well but need to cover all the bases ;-)

Thanks
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Question by:gela923
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Expert Comment

by:masterbaker
ID: 16481789
A VPN is definitely the way to go.  I prefer this method over "RPC over HTTP" as it allows you to do other things, like file sharing, remote desktop connections, etc. over the same secure tunnel.  

Here are a few guides that may help you through the installation and setup process:

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/windowsserver2003/technologies/networking/rmotevpn.mspx
http://www.windowsdevcenter.com/pub/a/windows/2004/03/09/vpn_connection.html
http://www.windowsnetworking.com/articles_tutorials/Client_Based_VPN_via_PPTP.html

Good luck!

Jeff
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Author Comment

by:gela923
ID: 16500285
Hi
Thanks for the response. I looked thru the links provided but that still leaves me in doubt...
It seems that the first thing you have to do is actually login to the VPN which you obviously won't be able to do if there is no internet connection. So how would the user be able to use Outlook "offline" on his laptop with no internet connection and then send the messages at a later time when internet connection is available and he's able to log in to VPN?
I mean, would his Exchange account on the laptop be able to somehow connect to Exchange server once the VPN is active? I don't see how this would work otherwise. Or else I'm still missing a piece of the puzzle.
Thanks!
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Accepted Solution

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masterbaker earned 2000 total points
ID: 16500332
If you use Outlook in Cached mode, it will operate without an Internet connection.  So when you are offline (lets say you are on an airplane), you would open Outlook and read and write emails.  In the lower right corner you will see it shows the status as "Disconnected".  When you get connected to the Internet, you will connect with the VPN connection and Outlook will be able to communicate with the server.  You might need to click the send/receive button if Outlook is already open (this just causes Outlook to go look to see if it can reconnect to the server).

So basically you don't have to connect to a VPN just because you have it installed.  You just connect to it when you want to transfer email.

Jeff
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Author Comment

by:gela923
ID: 16502196
Thank you; that's what I needed to know! ;-)
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