Connecting machine-to-machine securely, across the ‘net.
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A common question I get at Ask Leo! is how to connect to disparate networks
across the internet. For example a small business owner might want to connect
to his workplace from his home network, or on a business trip one might want to
connect to a work or home network as well.
Aside from Remote Desktop, which can be a little tricky to get working
between local networks across the internet, the answer has always been a VPN,
or virtual private network. In fact, VPNs are the solution of choice for most
large corporations whose employees need access to the corporate network from
remote locations. VPNs are secure, allow for various types of authentication,
and when they work … well, it’s just like being there.
The problem is that VPNs can be difficult to setup – especially for novice
or non-technical users.
Now I actually have the same scenarios that I’ve listed above: I travel
occasionally, and I also have a my wife’s small business several miles away
that I would like to connect to more easily and directly.
Enter Hamachi. Hamachi is a very lightweight VPN client that I’ve been
playing with for the last couple of days. It doesn’t provide network-to-network
connectivity like a traditional VPN might, but rather you choose which clients
machines you want on your VPN by running the client software on them.
When connected using the VPN, it’s the equivalent of being connected
directly on a local area network. Now while name resolution doesn’t seem to be
in place yet, you can browse the network shares of the remote computer using
its Hamachi assigned IP address, connect via remote desktop if you like, and
do pretty much anything you might if the computer were nearby on the same LAN.
On-line games, naturally, stress this beta technology the most, and the support
forums have many helpful pointers and hints for getting LAN based games to work
across the Hamachi VPN.
Hamachi bills itself as a “mediated” – meaning that clients are registered
with a Hamachi service so that they can be located and the initial connections
established. All data transfer is directly peer-to-peer, secure and
Hamachi is in beta, it’s free, simple and quick. You’ll find it at hamachi.cc.
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