Remote access Question

GregDSelwah used Ask the Experts™
I had a customer ask me a question I'm not to sure I know the answer to. The question:

"We are looking for a solution to connect the Public Works office and the Recreation office to our server and allow them to access the files and store files on the server here in our office.
From what I have been able to glean, VPN technology has been built in to Micro Soft Server 2010.  With that technology, a high speed internet connection and some setup on our desktops, the two offices would be able to access our server.  
Would you recommend this application?  Or a different application?  Would you provide a cost to the solution you would recommend?"

Are they talking about Remote desktop through the internet? I've heard of VPN before but have no experience with it. I'm not to sure if it's the same thing. Anyone have any insight to this question?
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John MeggersNetwork Architect
I'm not much of an expert on Microsoft's VPN capabilities, but if that's the only device remote users need to access, doing RA VPN right on the server may be a good option.  

Many people configure VPN tunnels between their firewalls or WAN devices, which offloads the encryption processing to those devices and allows access to multiple devices through the VPN.  You would have to know what those devices are, whether they have the correct hardware and software versions, etc., in order to determine whether that's a better alternative.  That type of VPN is generally a site-to-site VPN, though, not a remote-access VPN.
Well, the question is very broad and I apologize in advance if this becomes a "drinking from the firehose answer."

If you are talking about a VPN solution, there are many options. You could hub-and-spoke one of the sites and give the (relatively few) clients a software solution so that they could "dial-in" to the other site over the internet. You could also purchase two VPN devices and connect the two sites by setting up a secure VPN tunnel between them over their existing internet connections. Unfortunately these are expensive solutions because you are purchasing hardware and software licensing that will probably start in the several-thousand-dollar range. Also you will need folks that have technical skills to configure and maintain it.

You could use Sharepoint or a sharepoint-like solution so that all the internal and external users can share and manipulate the data through a web interface. That might be a less expensive alternative for file sharing but you will still need servers to house it, a backup system, and someone with experience setting it up and maintaining it.

Yes, if you want to get licenses, you can set up a terminal server and allow folks to RDP in from the remote site, but again it depends on your hardware and budget.

I would start with asking who has the data? How many people are they trying to share it with? Are you in a domain or a workgroup? Is there an IT group that maintains your network currently? Can they be used to consult on this project? Can you afford to pay for a solution?

Honestly, I couldn't find many articles that aren't extremely oriented to selling you one product or another or very intimate comparisons of one technology over another. Hopefully these articles can provide some basic ideas for you to consider.

Microsoft's Step-by-Step Guide for Setting Up VPN-based Remote Access

Wikipedia VPN article:

Microsoft VPN overview:

Juniper VPN decision guide:

Microsoft Sharepoint capabilities:

Please post back any points that need clarification. HTH.


Thank you very much for the reply's, it helps me out a lot and I wasn't far off base.

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