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My company has a field engineering force which works onsite at customers. Many of those customers have very restrictive rules. One cannot usually connect a non-customer owned laptop to the network, our employees can't install non-approved software on customer workstations. The customer network frequently has restrictive firewall rules in place that prevent access to external resources. Even our webmail is often blocked.

Meanwhile, we have a large number of useful resources on our internal network. Lots of wikis and similar resources, mostly browser based.

One idea I was thinking of is a browser based VNC that can talk to the my company's web server via http/https. In this way we should be able to access it from a customer machine using a customer web browser over ports that the customer would have open in the firewall. The web server would then forward the VNC connections to a generic Linux box. The Linux box would provide a web browser, rdesktop, and other apps and would be sitting within my company's network, with access to all the internal resources.

My questions are as follows...

1) Is this a good idea, or is there a better solution?

2) What products are available to do this?

3) Are there combinations that are known to work?


share|improve this question
Do your engineers all carry laptops? if so a mobile internet connection + vpn on the latptop would seem like the easiest option? – Sam Jan 27 '11 at 21:54
I think you need to consider whether or not doing what you are proposing will violate the clients' policies, as you are effectively looking to bypass their security. – John Gardeniers Jan 27 '11 at 23:59
@Sam Our engineers do use mobile internet connections and vpn. Depending on where we are, it is not always reliable. I've been in circumstances as well where the vpn has not been stable over the mobile internet connect. In those circumstances I've used VNC or an ssh tunnel to get to a machine in my home, and from there I've used VPN to get to my company's network. – MikeD Jan 28 '11 at 14:12

That seems a bit overcomplicated. :)

A VPN solution from Juniper or Cisco is what you're looking for. I have personal experience with the Cisco ASA platform, and it's client software is great and the AnyConnect feature of their WebVPN product will allow a VPN connection without preinstallation of Cisco software and it will run over port 80 or 443.

edit: is everything you want to access web-based?

share|improve this answer
Most of the resources are web based, but rdp, ssh, etc. would be useful. – MikeD Jan 28 '11 at 14:07

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