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I have two offices in two different cities. One of them is the HQ and has a file server. I would like to be able to access the file server from the secondary location as if I was in the HQ without having to use the FTP protocol. I also have several tools that I developed which access other computer using their local IPs, and I would like them to work as well.

The solution I thought about was installing a VPN network for the company, but I don't know if it is the optimal solution for this setup.

I am quite limited in terms of capital to invest and I would like to know what it requires... Do I need to have some kind of server? I know that Windows XP can connect to a VPN, but I guess this is only the easiest solution and I thought there might be better tools.

My university used a VPN, apparently powered by Cisco so I wanted to know if that was a good idea in your opinion.

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You probably have firewalls at each office - have you checked if these have VPN capabilities? – pauska Nov 10 '10 at 13:56
I'll check that, but in any case I can afford switching to a firewall with VPN compatibility. – SRKX Nov 10 '10 at 14:11
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Sounds like your expenditure constraints have you looking for free solution, I'd strongly suggest OpenVPN as it's widely used and well supported (even here on SF). If there are multiple computers at the "remote" site, and you have a server there, you can use OpenVPN to "bridge" the sites (any computer on either network can communicate with each other).

The Windows VPN technology does work, but it's easier to setup in a less than ideal way. It also requires a Windows Server.

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Well, it does not HAVE to be free, but I can't spend 10'000 USD you know what I mean. The key is that I need the VPN to be really secured, whence I thought about the one from Cisco. About OpenVPN, we agree that I can install it on a Linux computer in the HQ, and connect from a Windows computer without a problem right? – SRKX Nov 10 '10 at 14:12
Yep, OpenVPN can be hosted and accessed from just about any PC (Windows, Linux, BSDs, Macs included), and accessed by a crazy number of thing: Cell phones, iPads, even a taster with the right software: – Chris S Nov 10 '10 at 14:22
Another question, I guess I need a fixed IP where the server is located (I already have that), but I do not need to have a fixed IP for the remote office right? Besides, with such a setup, the computer of the remote site will be attributed common local IPs I can access from the HQ like for example is my network is on correct (I mean, I can configure it as such....)? – SRKX Nov 10 '10 at 14:49
Correct the VPN server needs to have a static IP, the clients can all have dynamic though, including remote sites. The best idea for internal IPs is to use the existing at your HQ, and something else (say at the remote site. Depending on your setup you might have to muck with routing tables on the default routes at each site so they know to use the VPN. If you use the same IP range at both, you'll also have to send broadcasts and all sorts of network noise over the relatively slow VPN connection, which usually leads to degraded performance. – Chris S Nov 10 '10 at 15:25

Cisco also makes several small business routers that support site to site VPN (Used to be Linksys products) They a re simple to set up and have worked well in installs I have done. They alos suppor IPsec if you wnat to have mobile users dial in. They are available as wired or wired/wireless devices. Something like this RVS4000

You alos need to consider latency when connecting other offices. Even with fast connections, some connections will remain very slow as TCP/IP sends packest back and forth many times. Consider a freeway with 8 lanes each way that has a speed limit of 100Km/hr(60MPH) Having 8 lanes (fast connection) does not make it faster to get anywhere(speed of light and number of times TCP/IP must communicate for any transaction).

We encountered this with our branch offices and our CRM, SharePoint 2007 and large file moves were painfully slow to the point users were unable to use some apps. We had to install WAN accelerators to resolve. Riverbed Steelhead devices worked great but budget will take a big hit. The Steelhead will also let you provide local services and other advanced stuff but that is another discussion

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Ok so Cisco provide the routers right? but I still need to install a VPN server at one of the locations don't I? like OpenVPN for example? – SRKX Nov 10 '10 at 14:19
Many of Cisco's newer routers can run a VPN as well. Particularly the ASA line and many of their converged devices. – Chris S Nov 10 '10 at 14:23
You would deploy a Cisco/Linksys at each location and create a tunnel between them. No server required. Simople to configure. The ASA devioces are a step up and not as simple if you are unfamiliar with Cisco IOS and the SDM. See edit for an example device and more info. – Dave M Nov 10 '10 at 18:35

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