PC Anywhere vs. VPN utilizing a Linksys WRVS4400N on our side & an WRT54G Router at the remote site for a total of 7 PC's.
I have a handful of questions that might us help you out...
1. how many users at each remote office?
2. What will the remote offices do with the main office? (Word processing, file sharing, CAD files?)
3. How much bandwidth does each location have?
4. What is your monthly budget for bandwidth?
5. How hands on do you want this project to be?
6. What OS's do you run?
Keep in mind that I've never done this before. Have always used pcAnywhere since it's inception 10yrs ago.
I'm very familiar with Windows 2000 Server, but we do not have any here. The boss doesn't want it, due to expenses in support, licensing, yada-yada-yada.
OK, First answers to your questions above:
1. 5-7 users
2. Word Processing, MS Word, Excel (spreadsheets average 25MB in size), some image modifications about averaging about 25MB in size
3. Using cable modems, 5MB+ downstream, 512kb upstream on both our office & the remote office. We do not have a static I.P. but this could change if need be. We also, use DYNDNS.org
4. The bandwidth would be totally used for this. Maybe allow one or two Max. users to surf the internet w/o huge file downloads.
5. I am willing to be fully hands so I can avoid having to bring in an outside source until I know what I'm doing. Then I'll subsidize the support & will use myself as a backup in the future.
6. The O.S. is strictly Windows XP Professional SP-2.
Second, Keep in mind that we do not have any servers here.
Will we need one?
We've been sharing files & three printers without any problems just using the built-in Windows File & Printer Sharing options & opening up certain ports in our McAfee firewall located on each PC to allow the sharing to take place. Also, everyone is hooked up to a LINKSYS WRVS440N Switchable router with a WRT54G router piggy backed to add additional ports & include some Wireless connectivity for some laptops that we bring in on occasion.
I know this is a lot, but big thanks in advance. I'm just trying to keep my worth in the office, even though they won't give me a raise this year, because "business was less than expected", "we didn't meet our projected quota". You know that old line. At least we got bonuses, Kentucky Fried Chicken on the boss for Xmas.
They would be perfect solution for your situation. They are a low cost VPN that you setup once and walk away. They have very little management needs and last forever.
I use them between sites and love them.
No need for a server with this config. Simply plug in after your cable modem, take about 10 minutes to configure and you will have a functional VPN. Side note they will need Static Global IP Addresses, which is usually a $5-15 a month charge.
Hi Suzukii, just in case you have not already implemented anything based on lvdax's suggestions, I thought I would give you two other alternatives.
I do not have any experience with the Sonicwall routers lvdax suggested and they are probably fine, but when our office implemented VPN we tried to stay away from devices that require you to use that company's own VPN client software (so we would not have to buy more if the office ever needed more licenses [does not sound like an issue for your office] or a new version came out).
As lvdax suggested, I am pretty sure you will need a fixed IP with any hardware solution. The Netgear box was easy to set up.
With the Netgear device, a user does not have to install any client software, but must use Internet Explorer (Netgear is supposedly working on a Java version that would accommodate Firefox and other browsers, but for now it has to be IE). The first time the user goes to the website for the device and logs in, it will prompt them to allow the installation of an Active X program in their IE browser. The only have to do this once. After that, all you do is log in and click on a big login symbol on the web page to establish the VPN connection. We then use the Remote Desktop Connection built into XP for users to remote into the work computer. One nice thing about RDC is that you can configure it and e-mail it to them as an attachment, which they simply save to their desktop and double-click to start.
The Netgear device has worked flawlessly for us. The only problem we had was user related, i.e. the users need to log out when they are done ... we had a bunch of users at first who did not, so we had to reboot it once (over about 4 months of use) and remind them to do so.
You do not need to have a server for this, but all of your computers need to be connected to a network switch, into which the Netgear device would also be pluged into.
Free Software Solution:
If getting a fixed IP is a problem or you just do not want to pay for a hardware solution, there is one other alternative that I have used (with great success) with many of my relatives to remote into their systems to help with computer issues. It uses a (free) small program called Hamachi to establish a VPN connection:
This is absolutely the easiest application that I have ever used. If you try it out you will realize that anyone will be able to install this at the home end. Note: although this company was bought out by LogMeIn (you will see the logo on the web site), this program is not the same as the LogMeIn service (which is another decent remote access service). The only thing Hamachi does is establish the VPN connection and then you use Windows RDC to remote in.
Hamachi works by establishing a virtual ethernet card with its own address and uses a central Hamachi server to establish the connection (but thereafter all data is strictly between your two computers). Because of this, it does not require a fixed IP address. In addition, I have used this to set up a number of relatives computers for remote access and have never had a problem with security software or routers interfering with the connection.
There is just one downside to the free version of Hamachi ... it cannot run as a Windows service, i.e. run while user is logged off the work computer (but it is still powered on). Hamachi offers a paid version that can do that if your fellow employees do log off at work when they leave.
p.s. feel free to post any follow up questions you may have and I will keep an eye on the thread.