With the proliferation of bring your own device (BYOD), more employees want access to corporate networks from their own devices, whether they’re smartphones or notebooks. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are the primary means by which companies grant such access. VPNs create an encrypted, private tunnel on the Internet between the device and the asset, making the data in the tunnel snoop proof.

VPNs have a reputation for being hard for users to configure, and for good reason. One missed period or fat-fingered server name means no VPN connection, a frustrated user and a call or message to the help desk. As the technology has matured, so has its ease of configuration. VPN clients (the software that runs on the local device) are either built in to most operating systems or are readily available for almost every type of computer, phone or tablet.

Configuring VPNs on Popular Operating Systems

Here are some basic configuration instructions for several popular computer and mobile operating systems. (Your network administrator will provide the address of the VPN server, ID and password.)

Windows 7 and 8

Windows 7 and 8.x have VPN support built in. To configure:
  1. Click on the Start button and type "vpn" in the search box. The VPN connection wizard will appear.

  2. Enter the domain name or IP address of the VPN server and click Next. You can leave the Destination name field as is (VPN Connection 1, for example) or give it a more specific name. Click Next.

  3. On Windows 7, enter your username and password (and domain, if the field isn’t pre-populated) and click Connect to connect to the VPN. On Windows 8.x, click on the VPN connection, enter your username and password and click Connect. (Note that the process could take a few seconds as Windows tries various protocols to establish the connection.)

  4. To add a shortcut to your VPN on your desktop, click on Start, Control Panel, Network and Sharing Center, and Change Adapter Settings. Right-click on the VPN icon and click Create Shortcut. Click Yes on the dialog box stating that the shortcut can’t be placed there and needs to be on the desktop.

Mac OS X

Some organizations have VPN configuration files. If you’ve been provided one, double-click the file to import the settings. Here’s how to manually configure a Mac OS X VPN.
  1. Go to System Preferences and then choose Network.

  2. Click Add (+) from the network connection services list and then choose VPN.

  3. Select the appropriate VPN from the VPN pop-up menu and name the VPN service. Type the server address and account name.

  4. Click Authentication Settings and enter your authentication credentials. Click OK and then Connect.

iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch

iOS 7 supports VPNs.
  1. Go to Settings, General, VPN.

  2. Touch Add VPN Configuration. Enter the settings that your network administrator provided.

  3. Turn the VPN on in Settings. (A VPN icon will appear in the status bar when you connect.)

Android

Android supports PPTP and L2TP VPNs, while other VPNs will require a dedicated app.
  1. Open the Settings app and select More under Wireless & networks. Tap VPN.

  2. Touch the + button and enter the VPN’s name, choose the VPN server type and enter the domain name or IP address.

  3. Touch the VPN name to connect. Enter your username and password.

Third-Party Software

Many companies use third-party VPN clients to connect to the corporate network. If the corporation has a Cisco VPN concentrator, users will most likely use a Cisco VPN client. Your network administrator will provide either a configuration file or the settings for you to configure the VPN client.