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Sunday, May 11, 2014

VPN The Pertino Way or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Software Defined Networking

I've been meaning to write about this for some time now. How many of you out there have had problems with traditional VPN clients & hardware in the past? My guess is quite a few of you reading this have at one point or another. I've struggled with enough of them that I'm not a huge fan of VPN clients, and preferred, until now, hardware VPN's. Up until last year, I was also not very familiar with Software Defined Networking (SDN), but I did understand the power and benefits that this technology represents to the world of IT.

My attitude towards VPN's has changed since then. Let me tell you why.

About a year ago I was working with someone who was looking for a way to stay connected to their office while not having to mess with a traditional VPN connection. My options were pretty limited at the time. I suggested using something like LogMeIn (which I will never recommend again, but that's a topic for another post) and TeamViewer, but these options required more interaction that what they, the client, wanted. They were also not willing to introduce yet another app to enable remote access. The client was also not very IT savvy and wanted everything done the easiest way possible. Well, for the project, I had to settle for a old PPTP VPN with a set of custom instructions to use built in Windows 7 tools. It worked, but was still a bit of a pain. You can probably guess the support calls I would receive from time to time. I was not happy with the solution, and I hated to set it up that way but the client understood and worked with it.

I'm always seeking out new ways to do things or products to try. One day, I was talking with some other IT professionals on a forum and was introduced to a new product called Pertino.
It was explained to me that once I read up about it and tried it out, my view on VPN connectivity would be forever changed.

And it was.

According to their site, the Pertino service gives you access to LAN like connectivity, a private address space, end-to-end security, optimized and easily managed VPN. It utilizes the Elastic cloud infrastructure, Network Virtualization, Software Defined Networking, Network Service Virtualization with real-time organization and orchestration. Pretty impressive right?

I reached out to Pertino to get setup with an account to try it out both at home and at the client. The setup was pretty straight forward & easy to understand. There was very little for me to do other than install and create a network. So I added a few devices at home and started some basic tests. I connected a few different devices. I added my Android devices (Motorola Razor M & Nexus 7 2013), added a laptop and even my Server 2012 R2 home server that I use for testing and exam practice. The installation process was consistent across all devices. That's the very first thing I noticed.

After setting up a few devices, I decided to do a little testing. "What do I typically use a VPN connection for?" I asked myself. So I proceeded to fire up the new Microsoft RDP app for Android (TechNet Article), and with some minor hiccups mostly related to DNS resolution I was able to use RDP while connected with Pertino. Now, since then, there is a little bit of integration now with the Pertino app for Android which allows you with a few presses on my tablet I'm in. It was just like if I were using LMI or TeamViewer, but at a fraction of the cost, a fraction of the setup time, and a fraction of the trouble, which was next to none.

Okay, so I can RDP, big whoop right? Hold the phone. So I asked myself another question, "What if I don't need to RDP? What if I just want to access a file share or do some PowerShell remoting or look at an internal SharePoint site? Does it work then?" To my shock, it did. At a fraction of the cost, a fraction of the setup time, and a fraction of the trouble. Okay, now I'm a little impressed.

No, scratch that, I'm VERY impressed. This is what SDN is about. Ease of use. Ease of Management. Ease of Deployment. Where has this product been all my life?

I introduced this product to the client who was also intrigued by the ease of use. Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond my control I was not able to see the project through 100% but the MSP that took over was intrigued after talking with me about the product and took my notes from the initial trial. They were planning on continuing the testing at that client site.

Pertino is a GREAT product with GREAT support. I have not yet been disappointed with the level of response I had to questions or suggestions about the product. The team that develops and promotes the product really do care about what their users say and have went above and beyond to continually improve the product. Many of the features that have been recently added were the result of user feedback. Not many companies do that these days. So, I tip my hat to the team at Pertino. Keep up the good work. There haven't been too many products lately that I have been so eager to promote.

I recommend any small business or even home user that wants to create an easy to use, cost effective and well supported VPN product to check out Pertino. Using it my make you think twice about setting up VPN connectivity for a distributed workforce in a whole new way.