Virtual Private Network - or VPN - technology exists to solve this problem, allowing users to tunnel in to your corporate network across the Internet in a secure manner.
Yet, these aren't always straightforward to set up. VPN products come in all manner of configurations and pricepoints and invariably a degree of complexity to install in an existing infrastructure.
Or you could go the open source route. OpenVPN is an open source VPN product that uses the secure socket layer (SSL) as its means for communication.
This means it maintains security but utilises a protocol stack which requires a minimum of fuss on either the client or server end.
The server component, known as Access Server, is a Linux-based product. It can be easily installed on Red Hat or Ubuntu derivative distributions through the package management tools on those systems.
However, Windows admins really ought to give OpenVPN a look. True enough it is a Linux product but this does not matter. In a stroke of masterful thinking, the product is available as a pre-packaged virtual appliance.
This means that all the work in setting up a Linux server and installing and configuring the software has been done for you. You don't have to make the product fit onto an existing server, risking corrupting some other vital piece of infrastructure.
Instead, OpenVPN ships complete as a virtual hard drive in both VMWare and Windows VHD versions. The VHD file is suitable for use both with Virtual Server and Windows Server 2008's Hyper-V product.
Virtualisation products that make use of hypervisors - like Hyper-V - will use hardware support to make the virtual machine run as close to natively on the bare metal as possible.
This means deploying OpenVPN is a snap; download the virtual appliance, run it as a virtual machine and configure via a simple web-based user interface. Remote users then just need a copy of the OpenVPN client and they're in.
OpenVPN is both free and open source, and if you need support perpetual licensing is available at the bargain price of $US 5.00 per concurrent connection.
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