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Senior Editor

Microsoft set to boost VPN support

Apr 07, 20032 mins

* The rollout of Windows Server 2003 could make Microsoft a leader in VPN security technologies

Even though Microsoft has included VPN security technologies in its Windows products for years, it hasn’t always been perceived as a leader in that arena.  That may all change when the software giant rolls out Windows Server 2003 later this month.

In this release Microsoft will address some shortcomings of its imbedded VPN technology, making the software more attractive to users looking to save some money connecting small sites over the Internet. Upgrades in Windows Server 2003 bolster Microsoft’s clients and servers. Notably, the new software will introduce features like denial of access to the VPN if the PC trying to connect to it isn’t configured with the right set of security applications such as firewalls and antivirus software. The package will also expand the ability to move VPN traffic through firewalls and make stronger authentication methods possible.

The company has included VPN capabilities for free in its PC platforms as far back as Windows 98, other vendors – Check Point, Cisco, NetScreen, Nokia, Nortel – perennially have beaten Microsoft in sales of VPN gear to enterprises.

But Microsoft’s widespread use is an advantage that others don’t have. The company’s NT, 2000 and 2003 servers can all function as VPN gateways to terminate VPN sessions. Client support is available via Windows 98, ME, 2000 Professional and XP Pro. VPN gateways from vendors including Cisco, Enterasys, Nortel, NetScreen and soon Check Point, support Microsoft VPN clients.

According to our Special Focus author Tim Greene ( work remains to be done.  The VPN capabilities that come along with Windows Server platform are attractive, but aren’t necessarily the most feature rich, experts say. For instance, the ability for VPN traffic to cross firewalls that perform network address translation is a common feature of most VPN appliances and their custom clients, but something Microsoft is still fleshing out.

There are lots of other features  in the works, however. For more on that and other Microsoft VPN direction information see: