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Mac OS X VPN Solutions, Part 1: Connecting to a VPN

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Connecting to a remote network using VPN technologies gives users secure and easy access to resources by using the Internet as a conduit for communication. Although the basic technology is the same for Mac OS X, Windows, and many network devices, the actual process of implementing a VPN solution can vary widely between computing platforms and depends on the VPN protocols being used. In this first of three articles covering VPN solutions for Mac OS X, Ryan Faas explains the common VPN protocols and concepts and how to configure the VPN client included in Mac OS X.
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Virtual Private Network (VPN) refers to a series of network protocols that enable computers to establish secure and encrypted connections, commonly referred to as tunnels, by using the Internet. These connections or tunnels can then be used for secure access to network resources. VPN access relies on a VPN server with which clients establish the secure connection. The VPN server manages the connection with clients and provides them with a second IP address that they use instead of the IP address provided by their ISP or local network when accessing resources on the remote network to which they are connected. The VPN server also acts as a router, transferring traffic between the clients accessing it and the network.

Once a computer connects to the network via VPN, it can see and access all network resources as if it were physically connected to the network. This means that users can access share points and home directories, email and messaging servers, application and terminal servers, and even print queues as though they were connected to the network. This makes VPN the most comprehensive method for remotely accessing resources within a network.

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