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I'm attempting to setup a connection between several Windows 7 PCs on one network and a Server 2008 R2 instance on another network. I've ascertained that the options are VPN or DirectAccess but I'm trying to determine which is better for my particular situation.

I'll start by saying I'm not really that concerned with security as I am the only person that will be using this connection; so I don't care about group policy and things of that nature.

I basically want to be able to edit files on the Server through my Windows 7 PCs; I get sick and tired of downloading and then re-uploading to change an xml setting. If I where able to mount a shared drive on the Server on my Win7 PC that would be ideal.

I would secondly like to be able to connect to an SQL Server on the Server so that I can change and edit tables in Visual Studio on Win7. I'm mainly interested in accessing files, but if this can work too that would be awesome.

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Please describe the two networks - are they geographically separate, what's the connectivity, hardware like? DirectAccess is great but has high requirements. Client VPNs can be annoying. A site-to-site VPN between two routers may be more what you're after. – George Hewitt Jun 8 '12 at 20:10
up vote 1 down vote accepted

You don't really describe the "2 networks", so I don't know what obstacles you are trying to overcome. You might want a combination of Remote Desktop and Remote Desktop Gateway, and possibly PPTP

Remote Desktop is used for accessing the console of the server remotely via RDP. Most windows OS from XP to current has some form of the remote desktop client built in. But you need to enable it on the server as well as open the ports on its firewall and grant the user account permission to connect remotely. This works great across a LAN.

Remote Desktop Gateway is used for accessing machines behind a firewall via a Windows 2008 (and Windows 2008 R2) Server. This creates a "gateway" for your remote machine to connect to the server and then forwards the request to the remote machine on the LAN. Since this does this over port 443 which is typically used for HTTPS, it generally is easier to setup on the remote side. if you SQL and 2008 Server are on the same network this might work for you.

Routing and RAS would offer you a way to VPN via PPTP to the server directly which would allow you to access and mount the file shares directly. But this might not be a workable solution depending on the connection between the two LANs. (I am assuming internet).

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Why not use somthing like LogMeIn Hamachi ...
DirectAccess has very high requirements e.g. 2 public static consequent IP's.. along with some decent hardware and internet facing! and if you have any server 2003's you'll need UAG (which includes DirectAccess). I work for an IT consultancy and have heavily looked into costs, requirements etc as I'm really interested in the DirectAccess idea and how much control / security it gives over standard pptp/ssl/ipsec vpn's

let me know if you want some more info on it. But yeah.. if it's just you, you could set up logmein hamachi on both server and client and edit your hosts file (a simple easy and quick solution!)

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People that are generally interested in a VPN are interested in security. Using something like Hamachi defeates that, as your traffic is funneled through a third-party facilitator. If you're concerned about security, avoid things like Hamachi. – MDMarra Jun 8 '12 at 20:08
Nope not true.. they are direct tunnels. also encrypted using 256bit AES using certs I think off the top of my head (to the best of my knowledge). They only use the third party facilitating servers to distribute private addresses and set up the initial encryption. and for a 1 minute set up .. not half bad as an alternative. – Aceth Jun 8 '12 at 23:01
That third party facilitation is a major problem, depending on how much you care about security. – MDMarra Jun 8 '12 at 23:26
Really? How so? – Aceth Jun 10 '12 at 12:18
Take a look at the recent PC Anywhere compromises. Any service that uses an external third-party to facilitate the connection is subject to being hijacked or snooped at that third party. You have complete control over your own endpoints, but you have no control over someone else's. – MDMarra Jun 11 '12 at 12:41

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