Five Best VPN Tools 930,4175
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3/07/10 9:00am 3/07/10 9:00am
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VPN software lets you join private networks as though you're sitting at a local computer on that network, giving you access to shared folders and tons more handy stuff. Here's a look at five of the most popular VPN tools.
Photo by Noah Sussman.
VPN software brings the security of a private network to an insecure network, and allows you to access private local networks from anywhere. As we've explained in the past, you can do things between computers on your local network you can't from out on the internet: like listen to a shared iTunes library or access files in shared folders. Virtual private network applications give you access to your computer from anywhere on the internet as if you were home on your local network. Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite software for establishing and maintaining virtual private networks. We rounded up the votes, and now we're back with the five most popular VPN applications.
If you're new to the idea of virtual private networks, you can read up on the technical nitty-gritty at the Wikipedia entry for VPNs. Note: This Hive Five contains both VPN server applications (the apps that create virtual private networks on your local network so it's accessible from the outside world) and VPN client applications (the apps that connect to virtual private networks from the outside world). In many instances companies produce VPN servers, VPN clients, VPN servers with accompanying clients, or VPN clients that are designed to work with a variety of servers.
OpenVPN (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
OpenVPN is an open source VPN server that's easy to set up for use with open source VPN clients. You can easily export configuration files from OpenVPN to import into a variety of open source and commercial clients. OpenVPN is also integrated into several router firmware packages including popular DD-WRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato. The OpenVPN system isn't compatible with popular commercial VPN providers, but it provides an open source and free alternative for setting up VPNs to expensive and closed commercial models.
Cisco VPN (Windows/Mac/Linux, Variable Cost)
Cisco has a high market saturation in corporate and educational environments, and for many of you, any experience you've had with virtual private networks is through such exposure. The price to run a Cisco VPN is highly variable—and you can't even get a concrete number without a quote from the company—but you can, as an end user, download the free Cisco VPN client for Windows and Mac—though many readers complained about the lack of 64-bit support in the free Cisco client.
LogMeIn Hamachi (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)
Hamachi's strongest attribute is its ease of use. If you've read some of the other entries in the Hive Five and realized that you don't want a contract for a corporate VPN or the hassle of configuring a bunch of routers with open-source firmware packages, and you just want to set up a simple virtual network between you and your friend, your phone, or your office, Hamachi offers nearly instant deployment. Install the Hamachi client on all the machines and devices you want to connect into your network and add them to your Hamachi VPN and you're done. It's dead simple. The downside, if you're concerned about it, is that your VPN isn't locally managed—it's centrally managed by Hamachi through their servers.
Shrew Soft (Windows/Linux, Free)
Shrew Soft offers a VPN that, while popular in its own right, received quite a boost when people started adopting Windows 7 64-bit in droves and found that Cisco wasn't in any hurry to release a 64-bit client to accommodate them. Shrew Soft works with a variety of VPN server protocols including IPsec, OpenSWAN, freeSWAN, and strongSWAN.
Windows Built-In VPN (Windows, Free)
Windows has a built-in VPN client. Surprised? Many people are. It's not a heavily advertised feature, but it covers many people's needs. Before exploring other client solutions, it's worth pulling up the quick launch box in the Windows start menu and typing "VPN" to start the configuration process. In Windows versions prior to Windows Vista, the built-in VPN client received a fair amount of criticism for lacking features and supported protocols. Since Vista and especially in the Windows 7 implementation, it's grown significantly and unless you need a feature or standard that isn't implemented you may not need to install anything at all.
Now that you've had a chance to look at the five most popular VPN solutions, it's time to cast your vote in the poll below:
Which VPN Tool is Best?survey software
An honorable mention goes out to the Mac OS X built-in VPN client. Have a VPN tip, trick, or application to share? Let's hear about it in the comments. 5 102Reply 102Discuss