Remote Networking Introduction.
VPN, RDS and VDI are three of the most famous TLA’s (three letter abbreviations) handed around these days, and are very useful practices for remote working. But what are the advantages? When should you use which one? Following article helps try to explain each method to help you decide, which suits your needs best.
Virtual Private Network.
By far the most common, VPN enables you from your network, to connect to another, for example from home to work, or from one company to another, in a secure and encrypted fashion.
It can be used to access shared folders, drives (if you don’t use cloud) and even devices on another ‘network’ with additional software such as mstsc.exe or the remote desktop applications that are available.
VPN can be client based using the OS, or, third party application usually and app or web page to build and maintain the connection. Or, on a grander scale you can construct a permanent VPN tunnel linking firewalls of one company to another, allowing multiple clients access to resources and different domains.
VPN has a big brother too called remoteaccess, think of this as an always on VPN, very useful, and does away with the manual involvement of having to connect. Largest issue with this method its aimed more at more modern network design IPv6, so if you have any older legacy systems it may be a problem implementing
Advantages, cheap, quick and easy to setup. Able to configure the protocol security type.
Disadvantages, Dependent on set up but you can give an awful lot of network view up. (even if you do your security should restrict wanderers). Can get complex when networks share IP ranges, so you have to NAT Network Access Translate addresses on one side so the masquerade as a different network. For example the widely used common internet facing network IP 192.168.x.x can be referenced as internal network IP 10.10.x.x.
There’s some confusion with RDS and VDI, so much so people use the term for both, but there is a difference. RDS (Remote Desktop Service) is the replacement for the older terminal services.
So, you can think of it as generating a standard template of a windows desktop machine that will be presented to every user who accesses it. In RDS the template is not designed to be able to be modified by the user, simply just used for their exact requirement.
You give the user a standard interface and applications to work with, with the data paths being set to alternative shared/private drives folders.
In addition to an entire desktop, there are also remote apps which are virtualised applications (Vapps) that can be provided over the remote interface. Suppose for example that 5 users need an invoicing application. Instead of installing on 5 machines create a single Vapp, where each user can call up the application as an when needed.
By centralising the application, there’s only ever one installation to update so that all users are on the latest/same version.
Accrssibility to only the software and applications what the user requires, clamps down the security risks. Reduces individual machine set up by supplying that one standard virtual environment.
Maintaining the template, so that updates are applied to ensure user is on the latest version of the software. Can become painful with multiple / regular updates
Virtual Desktop Interface, RDS with boots on. VDI creates several templates that can be presented over remote desktop services. But, each template is its own virtual machine for a specific user. VDI takes a little more consideration to setup, as you have to provide and environment that brokers connections, runs the virtual for the user. Depending on your user requirement you may have to deliver a hefty template to a user with lots of RAM, several processors So planning the servers that do this work takes planning and proper consideration.
But done right VDI provides a easy to maintain virtual ecosystem that allows your users to be anyway, connect and have a perfect work desktop delivered to them. There’s no need to buy equipment for users from home, they can use their own home computer to generate a virtualised power machine to work on.
Run a PC from a tablet, Windows android or ios device. User has the control you allow to add additional software or to update existing installation. A true work anywhere solution, incorporates BOYD
Initial cost and time in the setup is the biggest disadvantage.
If your working remotely your connectivity is imperative. I’ve encountered issues with users where their home broadband provider doesn’t allow for specific types of VPN, so ended up having to work around their issue by creating or using an alternative VPN, great it cures their problem, but it more to maintain.
VPN short term is okay over a mobile type 4G but remember signal changes as you move around, it may be difficult getting a good stable connection in the middle or nowhere, or in the middle of busy large city and peak times.
A good steady connection for RDS and VDI is vital, failing to do so provides a frustrating slow and regularly dropping out connection for the end user. Plus, a lot of frustration for IT having to unlock / free up dropped virtual sessions on the server.