Virtual Private Networks For Dummies

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Let’s face it: the information age makes dummies of us all at some point. One thing we can say for sure, though, about things related to the Internet is that their best strengths are often also their worst weaknesses. This goes for virtual private networks (VPNs). They may reach a wide base of customers – but can also be vulnerable to viruses, hackers, spoofers, and other shady online characters and entities. VPNs may allow for super-efficient communication between customer and company – but they rely on information which, if compromised, can cause huge losses. The Internet is still a frontier – sometimes so wide open it leaves us bewildered – and, like any frontier, the risks go hand in hand with potentially huge rewards.

Virtual Private Networks for Dummies offers you a no-nonsense, practical guide to evaluating your company’s need for a VPN, understanding what it takes to implement one, and undertaking the challenging quest to set it up, make it work, and keep it safe. Whether you’re the resident expert leading the project team, or you just want to learn what makes e-commerce tick, this detailed, from-the-ground-up guide will soon have you comfortably conceptualizing:

  • Security goals and strategies
  • The evolution of VPNs
  • Privacy in VPNs
  • Extranets
  • Remote-Access VPNs
  • Funding
  • Custom network solutions design
  • Testing VPNs
  • And more

With new products and technologies offering supposedly revolutionary solutions to IT departments every day, this book focuses on the real world – you know, the one full of obstacles, mishaps, threats, delays, and errors – and gives you the background knowledge to make decisions for yourself about your VPN needs. Written with a dash of humor, Virtual Private Networks for Dummies contains both technical detail (standards, protocols, etc.) and more general concepts (such as conducting cost-benefit analyses). This clear, authoritative guide will have you securely and cost-effectively networking over the Internet in no time.

Shockingly short on implementation details, Virtual Private Networks for Dummies tries to craft a scattershot collection of facts and references into an introduction to virtual private networks (VPNs). That's not to say that this book is insubstantial, because it's not; probably, you'll learn something about networking, cryptography, authentication infrastructures, and other aspects of VPN engineering. Also, it's done a good job of compiling references to VPN resources on the Internet, so you'll have plenty of surfing to do. But it never explains how to build a VPN--or even the simplest laboratory simulation of one--and that's precisely the kind of how-to information that buyers of this book will want.

True enough: every situation that calls for a VPN is different; and, if the book had shown how to implement a VPN with one turnkey solution, users of the others would complain. But even the narrowest example would have been better than some of the stuff that fills these pages. At one point, the reader is walked through the process of encoding and decoding a plain-text message--by hand--by using a shared private key. Spare us, please. The book gives the vital Layer 2 Transport Protocol all of two short paragraphs. Sections on public-key encryption and digital certificates do a good job of unraveling perennially misunderstood processes, but they don't offset the lack of details on VPN. --David Wall

Topics covered: Aspects of virtual private networks (VPNs), organized to get potential VPN implementers thinking about security and other design issues. Specifically, Public-Key Infrastructure (PKI); digital certificates; turnkey VPN packages; and a lot of general stuff about what VPNs are good for, and how to design a good one.

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