VPN – Not Just For Techies Anymore
In a previous article, I wrote about how you can watch TV online from another country using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to a friend’s PC.
This article goes into creating VPN’s in a bit more detail and I’ll look at two popular (and free) software products, Logmein Himachi and Comodo EasyVPN.
What Is A VPN?
When you are in your office or home with multiple computers they will usually all be connected to the same network.
This allows you to easily share files, printers and so on. It is all very secure because the data remains inside your house or office network but as soon as you send data outside of that location (via email, through websites, etc) it is potentially publicly accessible.
If however you create a VPN between you and another location then you are effectively extending your home network and everything you can do and share on that home network, to the other location in a safe and secure manner.
Think of it as a secure tunnel connecting the computers at your location with the computers at a different location be it another building, another city or another country.
VPN Sounds Complicated!
Yes, it is!
The technology and protocols behind VPN are complicated and it used to be quite complicated to set it up, but not anymore.
Creating quick and easy VPN connections between two locations, even homes, is becoming very popular and very easy.
It not only provides secure communication but also allows you to share files and data in ways that were previously only possible when on the same network.
Here are a few examples of things you could potentially do with a VPN connection:
- Share Your iTunes Library with someone at a different location using iTunes Home Sharing
- Print anything to a printer at the remote location such as an airline boarding pass
- Connect through a proxy so that you can fake your location for the purposes of watching streaming TV online. I wrote detailed steps on how to do this here
- Play multiplayer network games
- Share files
2 Quick & Easy Ways To Create Your VPN
Himachi was the first product of it’s kind that I used for the purposes of creating a VPN.
It is entirely based on software so you don’t need to do any complicated configuring of routers, firewalls and all that scary stuff.
Essentially, you just install Himachi on a PC at one location and then at the other location, create a network through the program and then join that same network using the network ID at the other location.
It’s very quick, painless, ultra reliable and is free for personal use.
The really great thing I liked about Himachi is that it is cross platform so it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
The article has step-by-step instructions for LogMeIn Himachi.
The second piece of software I’ve recently used for VPN is Comodo EasyVPN and it’s just as it says on the badge – Easy.
Comodo have designed this piece of software to look and feel like an instant messaging client similar to Windows Messenger, Google Talk or Yahoo Messenger.
Navigating the interface and connecting to your buddies remote network is as easy as adding them as a buddy in IM client too.
If you want to use EasyVPN to create a VPN to a friends location then just do the following:
- Download EasyVPN from here.
- Install EasyVPN on your computer.
- When EasyVPN launches, click Register and activate your registration through the link in the activation email.
- When activated, login to EasyVPN and an instant messaging style window will appear similar to the one pictured above.
- Now click Networks > Create New Network and give your network a unique name and password. Now your network is created and you will see a windows like the one pictured above (I’ve blanked out my details)
- The last step is to ask your friend to download, install and register with Comodo EasyVPN just as you did but instead of creating a new network, click Networks > Join a Network and enter the same network name and password that you created above.
You can verify that you’re connected by clicking the Networks tab. You should see your friend’s PC on the Networks tab on your PC and vice-versa on your friend’s.
All going well, you should now have a secure connection directly to your friends computer.
If you’re looking for the IP addresses of each computer you should see them in brackets after your name and your friends name in the main window.
What I like about Comodo’s offering is how easy it is to get connected. It is a bit more limited than LogMeIn however in that it won’t allow you to access the gateway at either end. Saying that the integrated instant messaging and desktop sharing features are nice.