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Setup a Free VPN (Virtual Private Network)

by Oscar Sodani
February 5, 2006

Oscar Sodani is a founder of Help2Go and owner of Help2Go Networks, an IT consulting firm in the Washington D.C. area. Oscar holds the CISSP certification as well as industry certifications from Microsoft, Cisco and Novell.

People are always asking me: how can I share files with my family and friends securely? The solution has always been well-known: setup a virtual private network (VPN). However, VPNs have always been notoriously difficult to install and configure. Many software programs have been released over the years trying to simplify this problem, but a new one stands out: Hamachi.

Hamachi allows you to create a "virtual" network with your regular Internet connection. The best part is, you don't need to know or understand how it works - it simply works. Plus, it's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Let's say that you want to share some files with your sister, who lives 30 miles away. Even if you both have good Internet connections, you are stuck emailing files to each other, which is nearly impossible when it comes to large files.

If you both install Hamachi, all of a sudden, both of you appear to be on the same local network. If you share a folder, she can access it. You can print to her shared printers. The ease of use is amazing. Furthermore, all of the data sent between your computers is encrypted, so that you can be sure that no one else can access your data.

The first step is to download Hamachi. After you download and install it, run Hamachi and you will see a small black window. The interface is simple - the button on the button left is the Power button - click this to "turn on" Hamachi.

The next button at the bottom allows you to create or join a network. Create a new network and give it a password. No one will be able to connect to your network without knowing this password. You will see the network name appear in the Hamachi window, along with a little green dot alongside it that lets you know that this network is active.

Next, you would tell your sister to install Hamachi. She would click on the join network option, then type in the name of the network you created, along with the password. That's it! Her computer will now appear in your Hamachi window, and your computer will appear in her Hamachi window. To browse her shared folders, just right-click on her computer name in the Hamachi window and choose Browse

At any time, you can disconnect from the network you created - that would disconnect everyone from your computer. You can also just "turn off" Hamachi to do the same.

Although this product is still in beta testing, I highly recommend it. It's easy to use, and extremely powerful. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities... you can run remote control programs like VNC over Hamachi, play games, setup private web sites, private FTP servers, or any number of other Internet services, and all the data is encrypted for security. But the coolest part by far is just being able to share a folder, and allow your family or friends instant access to it without having to worry about email.


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