The best free VPN clients


5 Aug 2011
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VPN not only helps you to access your work machine back in the office, it can also provide consumers more secure Internet browsing or virtual LANs. Best of all, there are some good free choices available, too.
When you think of VPN, if you think of anything, it’s probably not free VPN clients for consumers. But setting up and using a VPN (Virtual Private Networking) has become much less of a hassle recently. What was formerly a technology used mostly by businesses to allow employees to access the company network remotely has turned into a multi-purpose technology. Now VPN means everything from enterprise VPN hardware to on-the-fly software solutions simple enough for use by consumers who want to provide remote access to their home networks. And it’s not just the technology that has become more accessible—the price, too, is right for everyone, with several good free VPN clients now available.
Traditional VPN
VPN traditionally has been a locally-deployed client/server solution. You would build a VPN server to manage and negotiate the connections and install clients to the machines that needed remote access. This is still the way many businesses set up VPNs. Organizations often have strict security and log in requirements. They need to know who is accessing the company network and when. Sometimes this information is used for billing consultants or employees who work off site. Cisco's VPN client software is one of the most widely-used in business.
Some businesses use turnkey VPN appliances. Cisco, Juniper, and Barracuda are a few companies that provide such products. These appliances are often easier for a business to deploy than building a VPN server, and they often feature very sophisticated and granular security and management options.
Non-Traditional VPN
Of course, not everyone needs enterprise-level VPN. Some people just want to be able to connect to their work machine without a lot of hassle. This may apply even more to those who work in small companies with little or no IT support. Others may just want to set up VPN to collaborate or host PC game-playing sessions with friends.
There are solutions out there for quick and easy VPN. Some of them are also true VPN solutions, providing a secure, encrypted data connection between two clients using the internet. True VPN is a bit different than remote control solutions like Team Viewer or GoToMy PC . These remote access solutions are designed more for accessing a single machine's files, or for desktop sharing. They are usually cloud-based and often do not require client software.
VPN solutions often allow you to create virtual LANs. LogMeIn's Hamachi allows for this. It's a fine free solution for a small business that may not have a physical LAN established but wants to create one with users and shared resources virtually.
Some VPNs are used more to create a secure data connection for browsing the Internet. OpenVNS's Shield Exchange acts more as an anonymizer, blocking your IP address when you access websites and guarding against online threats. It's good additional security to have in place when connecting to the Internet at public hotspots.
Other free VPN solutions are for more casual users. Wippien is embraced by gamers because it makes hosting games easy and has built-in chat functionality.
VPN Cautions
Whatever free VPN solutions you may consider, bear in mind that there are a few caveats. While most free VPN solutions employ some sort of security for the data connection, you certainly aren't getting the security strength of paid and business VPN products. Don't use free VPN clients to share or transmit your most sensitive data—they’d be fine for Amazon shopping but not for healthcare records or anything that requires you to send your social security number, for example. Also be aware that VPN solutions tend to slow down browsing. Often it's not significant enough to notice, given a broadband connection, but when your connectivity is constrained, using a VPN might make a big (negative) difference.

Source : Digit magazine.
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