Windows 8 VPN

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Windows 8 (and consequently, Windows 8.1) has a little known feature that, if executed correctly, could revolutionize the ‘remote worker’. Built-in VPN services.

Windows 8 takes a brand new approach to handling VPN services. Traditionally, if you were outside of a physical network and wanted access into it (to access e-mail, or shared documents, etc.), you would have to fire up your computer, open a piece of software called a VPN client, enter some credentials, click connect, then wait for it to connect. Once connected, you could then access network drives, etc. This is how we’re used to using VPNs, and it’s been designed in this manner for many years.

What Windows 8 tries to do is streamline the whole process, and eliminate the VPN client altogether. Instead of having to open your VPN client software, enter credentials and connect to the corporate network, you can just simply try and open a network resource, like a shared network drive. When you try and open that shared resource, the operating system will identify that you’re trying to access a LAN (Local Area Network) resource that’s not available, and it will automatically establish a pre-configured VPN connection. Once that connection is made, your network resource opens up and you’re working away.

For the user, this is a great feature. It’s completely seamless, so all you do is double click on your shared network drive or try and open your Outlook client (that’s connected to Exchange) and the operating system automatically establishes your VPN connection for you. No extra clicking, no scripts to run, nothing.

For the administrator however, we still have a ways to go before this service is as solid and reliable as traditional VPN software clients. In the real world, I haven’t been able to get the built-in Windows 8 VPN service to work properly. Granted, I only use a few select UTMs (Universal Threat Management appliances) and therefore have only been able to test with a few of the UTMs that are out there on the market. So it may very well be that the UTMs I have access to in the real world are among the few that don’t play nice with Windows 8’s built-in VPN service. In any case, the technology simply isn’t as robust as the traditional IPSEC / SSL VPN software clients out there. That said, most technology isn’t when it’s this new, and that’s to be expected.

This is an exciting new service that, if developed and matured correctly, will revolutionize the ‘remote worker’ community. Remember, even though a service or product might not be up to the task today, that doesn’t mean it won’t be up to the task tomorrow. Things in our industry change so quickly, that we need to pay attention and make sure we aren’t missing out or overlooking the next big leap forward.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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1 Comment

  1. Jimmy Simpson III June 12, 2014 at 8:03 am

    This is what I’ve considered the “killer feature” for Windows for a very long time. I’m glad I’m not the only one using it.

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