What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a tool that allows separate computers to connect to one another over a network more securely. A VPN scrambles the connections between two computers so that only the sender and intended recipient know what is being sent. It is useful for customers who exchange sensitive data with university computers.
- The Basics
- VPN at Home
- VPN on Campus
- License Information
- Supported VPN Platforms
- Unsupported Platforms
- For More Information
For information about downloading, installing and configuring VPN, go to our Downloading, Installing and Configuring VPN page.
VPN allows customers to use their favorite programs and services much more securely at UH and from home. VPN account services are provided to deliver security solutions to customers and administrators, helping to protect data communications.
The following benefits are provided to UH VPN customers:
- Checking email more securely.
- Connecting to the Internet when using wireless service for on-campus laptops.
- Downloading McAfee VirusScan and accessing some library resources from off-campus.
- Connecting to any UH service more securely.
UH offers Cisco VPN software (32-bit only) to allow authenticated, secure access to many UH resources from home or a wireless connection on campus. This helps confirm a customer's identity and provide better security to UH systems and services.
For Windows 64-bit users, there is a VPN client built into the operating system. For information on using the built-in VPN client, read this Get Help answer: Accessing the UH Virtual Private Network with the 64-bit edition of Windows Home Premium.
VPN at Home
Customers may start their VPN client from home once they have connected to their Internet Service Provider (ISP). This will create a secure "tunnel," or separate connection, between your computer and UH, providing better security.
VPN on Campus
Wireless service allows customers to access the UH network without being physically connected. When connecting to the wireless network, having VPN software loaded allows:
- Internet access to be enabled.
- Transmissions between customers and wireless hubs to be scrambled, or encrypted, to prevent other wireless devices in the area from eavesdropping.
- All connections with computers at UH to be more secure.
Wireless customers will be able to access UH computers and network services such as www.uh.edu or email without a VPN client. Internet access is off-limits to wireless customers without VPN installed, for security reasons.
For information about wireless service at UH, see the UH Wireless Network Service.
Cisco VPN is the VPN software used on campus. The University of Houston does not have a site license for Cisco VPN. A personal license is free and available when you download the software.
Supported VPN Platforms
The IT Support Center supports the basic installation and troubleshooting of VPN on the following platforms:
- Mac OS X
- Windows Vista, XP, and 2000
The IT Support Center will be available to discuss possible solutions for more difficult problems. Contact 713-743-1411 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with IT Support Center staff.
Mac OS 9, Windows CE and PalmOS do not have a VPN client supported by Information Technology.
For More Information
For more information, see About.com: Introduction to VPN.
For information about connecting to a specific service securely, contact your system administrator. Not all systems at UH are on VPN. However, all connections to any system at UH are much more secure with VPN than without.