The Windows OS can communicate through many different types of networks. In this video, you’ll learn about VPN, wireless, wired, and WWAN network connections.
In Windows, we can connect to many different kinds of networks in many different ways, and you can set up these configurations inside of Windows in the network and Sharing Center. Windows includes a step-by-step wizard that’s customized to the type of network that you’re trying to connect to. So, you get one wizard for a wired ethernet network, and a different type of wizard if you’re connecting to a VPN.
Inside of the network and Sharing Center, you would choose the option to set up a new connection or network. If you click on that, you’ll get the options that are available for your system. On this system, I can connect to the internet, set up a new network, or connect to a workplace. This gives you a single screen that allows you to customize or set up any network configuration in Windows.
Let’s look at the option for connecting to a workplace, which would be to set up a dial up or VPN connection to your workplace. Many organizations will set up and configure a virtual private network concentrator, or VPN. This allows you to be at a remote site but securely connect to all of these private devices that are inside of your corporate network. It does this by setting up an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN concentrator.
Anything sent over that network link will all be encrypted. So if somebody’s capturing packets at this coffee shop, they won’t be able to gather any information from the data flows going back and forth to your corporate office. This VPN concentrator is responsible for decrypting all of this information being sent through the tunnel and passing it through to the devices on the inside of your network. To get information back to the laptop, we reverse this process. The VPN concentrator encrypts the data, sends it across this internet link, and your laptop is then responsible for decrypting all of that data.
The VPN concentrator used by your organization may have its own software that needs to be installed in Windows. But Windows also includes its own VPN client. You can simply choose the option to connect to a workplace, and you can set up the configuration settings for that VPN connection. You could choose to use a normal VPN connection very similar to what you would have on a wired or wireless network. Or if you’re using dial up, you can choose to use a dial up connection to that VPN concentrator.
You would then specify the internet address for the concentrator. You can give it a name so that you can reference that inside of Windows, and then you could choose to create that link and be able to connect to the VPN. If your network administrator wants to add some additional security to this connection, you might have to choose the option to use a smart card where you would plug in a smart card into your laptop or a smart card reader to be able to provide additional authentication during the login process. Once this VPN configuration has been set up, you can enable or disable the connectivity to the VPN concentrator on the Windows taskbar using the network status icon.
We certainly use wireless networks extensively, and Windows includes a wizard that helps you connect to these wireless networks. You would provide first a network name. This would be an SSID, or service set identification name, for the wireless network. You’d then choose a security type so you can specify whether you’re using WPA2, WPA2 enterprise, or some other type of encryption method. You would then choose the encryption type, and then specify the security key for this network.
If you’re running WPA2 Personal, then everyone has the same security key, and you would add that security key into the wizard. If you’re using WPA2 Enterprise, then you’re using 802.1X authentication, and you would use the normal username and password that you use for all of your other authentications.
Wired ethernet connections are somewhat easier to configure because you don’t have to deal with any type of SSID or wireless encryption. You simply plug in your cable, and you’ve got a direct connection to this system. In fact, you could connect to multiple network types simultaneously. You could be connected to a wired ethernet network, to a wireless network, and a wireless wide area network connection. Windows determines which one of these connections has the highest performance and uses that as the default.
You can also modify the network configurations for these wired and wireless networks by right clicking on the network adapter and choosing properties. This will bring up a properties window where you can configure IPv4 information such as the IP address, subnet mask, default gateway, or specify that you’re using a DHCP server. This is also where you might want to configure an alternate configuration in case a DHCP server is not available.
Inside of your laptop or desktop, you might also have hardware that allows you to connect to a cellular provider’s network over a WWAN, or wireless wide area network. This usually includes specialized hardware that allows you to connect to that cellular network. And in some cases, you might even have an extra antenna that you can connect to get even better performance.
Sometimes you can gain access to this wireless WAN over a USB connected wireless WAN adapter or through 802.11 wireless in the form of a hotspot. This almost always requires some type of third party software that’s made by the wireless provider. But this would allow you access to the internet even though you may be far away from an ethernet or 802.11 network.