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 private.
Hamachi is in beta, it’s free, simple and quick. You’ll find it at hamachi.cc.
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