April 7, 2022

What's Wrong with Remote Networking?

During the Pandemic, the concept of working remotely really came of age. We were all sent home and suddenly did not have the easy connectivity working in a traditional office provides. There were several ways in which our normal workflow was interrupted. But, for this discussion, I will mostly focus on the way we access shared file resources. Though the same concepts apply to other forms of data and communications.

Office LANs

Most workers are used to storing shared files on some kind of network file server or NAS device (Network Attached Storage). This is fine if you are working in an office. But accessing your files from home or on the road becomes a pain. Hold onto this idea.

Cloud Storage

Many people then tried migrating their files to some kind of cloud-based file-sharing service such as Google Drive* or Microsoft OneDrive*. This does work well to some extent. But the ability to access and manipulate those files can become difficult as the size of the dataset grows. i.e. This works for small amounts of data. But when you try to put everything online, it becomes slow or nearly impossible to manage.

Syncing large amounts of cloud data between multiple devices or people can open you up to other potential disasters. For example, what happens if two disconnected people make revisions to the same files at the same time. When it syncs back to the server, which version is the correct version? When you sync data to local disks, this happens all the time.

What about the safety of that cloud-stored data? Do you really trust that your data is safe on web-accessible cloud servers? If your email account gets compromised, the person who hacked you then has access to all of your cloud data. There are serious risks here.

What happens if your credit card expires and you miss the reminder emails? Your data can disappear overnight.

Many feel that the global cloud providers are so good at infrastructure management that the odds of them being hacked are virtually zero. This may be the case. However, most breaches occur as a result of social engineering and phishing attacks. In these cases, you usually receive a cleverly composed email that tricks you into logging into a fake version of a real site. You've seen the bad ones. But can you spot the good ones? It happens to perfectly competent people every day.

Traditional VPNs

Next is the time-tested VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN is a virtual network connection between your local computer and some remote server. Many know VPNs as a way to protect your identity online or to access services not available in your country. But I am referring to the type of VPN used to access company servers back at the office. This is probably the best option discussed so far.

These types of VPNs have been around for a very long time. And you may have heard of VPN products using protocols like IPSEC and L2TP. With these VPNs, you are given some credentials and connections details from the office IT staff. You then launch a local VPN client and it "dials" into the office over the Internet. If everything goes well, it works.

Traditional VPN protocols are complex and prone to incompatibilities. They don't go through firewalls particularly well. And if your connection is interrupted, the connection drops and you need to stop and get connected again. To many IT staff, they are the bane of their existence.

A Modern Mesh-VPN

I am going to suggest another option. A new service called The 2hO Network. It is a different type of VPN. BTW, 2hO stands for "To Home Office". It was designed to address the needs of regular less-technical people trying to get work done beyond the traditional office.

The 2hO Network is a mesh-based VPN where individual devices connect directly to each other without routing your data through a central server. 2hO network connections are outbound. So they go through firewalls like they're not even there. And the 2hO software manages the technical details so you can always get at your devices.

The 2hO Network uses the WireGuard* protocol internally. WireGuard offers state-of-the-art encryption that runs at near-wire speed. Combine this with a modern Internet connection and you are pretty much taking your LAN connection with you.

The 2hO software adds an automatic zero-configuration layer that continually adjusts your network configuration to keep you connected. It's always on. Unless you choose to turn it off. So, if your Internet is connected, your devices are accessible.

If you can surf the web, your connections will just work.

It's like traveling the world and taking your local WiFi connection with you.

The 2hO Network service is free for non-commercial use. To learn more or to try it out, please see https://2ho.ca

* All trademarks, service marks, and company names are the property of their respective owners.