As I write, the beginning of the midwest blizzard of 2011 is beginning. By the time you read this, there's supposed to be 8-12" of snow outside my door. The last time we got about 6" I couldn't navigate off my street – I needed to wait for it to be plowed. So with this much snow outside, does that mean I get a snow day?
Nope. Thanks to modern technology, I can do 90% of my job from my home office. We have a Cisco firewall at work, and wouldn't you know it, OS X 10.6 has a Cisco-compatible Virtual Private Networking (VPN) client built in, as does the current iOS for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. This means I can connect through a secure network to work, and get to my desktop machine or any of the servers there (or in any of our remote locations). It was actually easier to set up than the client for Windows. We really don't care much for the Cisco client, so the datacomm tech found an open-source Windows client he likes. Of course, he had to have everybody bring in their PCs from home to set it up – I saw a guy's huge desktop PC in the tech's office today! And even though Cisco has a version of their client for Macs, why bother? The built-in client works just fine. I've connected up quite easily with my iPhone, iPad, laptop and desktop to multiple Cisco firewalls in our company.
OS X supports several different VPN standards – IPSec for Cisco, L2TP over IPSec, and PPTP. But it doesn't support every option for all of those. For our previous firewall, I needed to use a great piece of software called IPSecuritas by Lobotomo Software. The price is right – free – although they do accept donations. IPSecuritas lets you connect to a lot of different firewalls (as you can see on their site). Once it was set up (which did take a few tries, but only because the older firewall had a lot of options for the VPN) it worked just fine – and was much more reliable than the client that came with the firewall for Windows users. it would connect up maybe 50% of the time or drop off unexpectedly. I didn't have those problems.
I have an afternoon of meetings – but since they are all with colleagues in out of state, the meetings are on the phone. Well, they can call me at home just as easily as at the office, so I don't need to miss those.
So hurray! I still get to work! Hey, wait a minute…