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asked by dgrrr on 12/30/2005 04:35PM PST
This question is worth  250 Points

My friends have a local network comprising 2 WinXP Pro PCs and an occasional laptop, behind a Netgear WGR614 v6 router, connected to a COMCAST cable modem.

They use a database program called MYOB / Mind Your Own Business. It allows multiple users to edit the database simultaneously.

They have a work assoc in Boston, who needs to be able to do this from his PC in Boston.

In the past the Boston guy used GoToMyPC to make changes to the MYOB database file by "taking over" a PC on our end.  But this is not a workable solutiong, because we lose use of the PC on our end when he "takes it over".



******
(1) Can these "remote admin" programs (PC Anywhere, GoToMyPC, realVNC) be tweaked to allow the kind of live database file access I'm talking about, WITHOUT taking over the PC controls / resources / screen?  

(2) If not, my understanding is that we need to setup a VPN SERVER, and this is most easily achieved by buying a "VPN SERVER ROUTER", as opposed to the more common "VPN Passthrough" routers that are for the VPN client (Boston guy).... AND that SOFTWARE-ONLY solutions, for a small home business VPN SERVER, are either non-existent or problematic?

(4) In addition to the VPN SERVER ROUTER, will we need to obtain VPN SERVER SOFTWARE, or will XP Pro provide a reliable generic VPN solution on our end? (Or does server software usually come bundled with the router?)

(5) I hear about free VPN SERVER SOFTWARE (e.g. SSH Sentinel), but find only trialware versions.  Any suggestions there?

(6) Comcast, being a  cable ISP, changes the gateway IP regularly.  We don't want to pay them extra for a true "static IP" from Comcast.  Will using a VPN SERVER ROUTER solution (or any other) allow the BOSTON guy to access the MYOB database, WITHOUT having to call us first to get the gateway IP?  What if we use "DNS2GO" or "DynDNS"?  

(7) Is there an easier / cheaper solution I have missed?


(Phew)  Thanks a ton!

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Comment from plemieux72
Date: 12/30/2005 05:31PM PST
Comment Accept

(1) I don't think so.  A better approach would be as follows:  The MYOB database would have to have a client that could be installed on the remote PC.  Once connected via VPN, the remote client could access the database via the MYOB client software.  Or, the MYOB database could be setup on a server and be web-based.  I don't know anything about the MYOB program so I am not sure if that's possible.  However, you should browse their support site or forum to investigate these possibilities.

(2)  A VPN server alone will not provide anything additional than the GoToMyPC solution.

(4)  A Windows Server 2000 or 2003 can provide a VPN end-point (through RRAS) and allow the built-in VPN client on Windows XP Pro computers to connect to it.  However, it would be simpler to use a VPN appliance such as the Cisco PIX firewall or Cisco SOHO 91-64.  Many other cheaper (though probably less reliable) appliances exist on the market.  Just make sure that if you choose one, it can actually TERMINATE a VPN tunnel.  VPN pass-through is not what you need in this circumstance.

(5)  When you have chosen a VPN appliance, only then can you choose the client.  Most VPN routers/firewalls/servers come with a software VPN client for remote access.

(6)  These dynamic DNS services you mentioned definitely work for this purpose.  I use DynDNS myself and it works great.

(7)  See (1) above.

Comment from Pentrix2
Date: 12/31/2005 07:25AM PST
Comment Accept

why not just install Microsoft Virtual PC onto a PC and have your Boston fellow use GotoMyPC solution onto that Virtual PC.  It's like having 2 PCs in 1 box but virtually.  It doesn't hog up too much resource because you can customize it.  

Comment from plemieux72
Date: 12/31/2005 07:48AM PST
Comment Accept

Pentrix2, I think they'd end up with 2 databases, one on the guest PC and the other on the host PC and they would become out-of-sync...  but I might be wrong.

Comment from Pentrix2
Date: 12/31/2005 11:36AM PST
Comment Accept

That's what I thought too but Dqrr has this line:

"They use a database program called MYOB / Mind Your Own Business. It allows multiple users to edit the database simultaneously."

With Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 @ Compusa cost $121.99.  This will save him buying an extra PC.

http://www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?product_code=50342949&pfp=SEARCH

Comment from plemieux72
Date: 12/31/2005 11:49AM PST
Comment Accept

Right, but how do you update the database from the Virtual PC if it resides on the other PC?  I checked the myob.com site and there doesn't seem to be any download available for a Windows client.  Unless it comes with the software...  So, I guess only Dqrr or someone who uses MYOB would know that.

Alternatives to this problem might be web-based accounting solutions for small businesses such as:
http://www.netsuite.com/portal/products/main.shtml

...and others listed in the following article:
http://www.allbusiness.com/articles/FinanceAccounting/436-32-1765.html

Comment from Pentrix2
Date: 12/31/2005 12:29PM PST
Comment Accept

The virtual PC has it's own Operating system and IP so it'll act just like another PC.  It's like taking away dqrrr's PC and putting a Virtual PC in it's place.

Comment from plemieux72
Date: 12/31/2005 12:58PM PST
Comment Accept

But that doesn't answer HOW one PC can have access to the MYOB database on ther OTHER PC without using remote desktop take-over which was the initial question.  SOME kind of database front end client is still needed.

As I re-read the question, the initial statement "It allows multiple users to edit the database simultaneously" implies that the asker already has that capability.  If that's the case, then, yes, a remote access VPN solution will solve their problem.  If not, I don't know how else they can access the database remotely and I doubt installing Virtual PC will help as it will only allow them to put their database on two PCs - not what they want.

Comment from Jeff_Overley
Date: 12/31/2005 03:11PM PST
Comment Accept

It sounds like you would be much better off creating a VPN solution for this specific problem.  It would allow everyone to work at any hour of the day without interruption of any sort.

Now to answer the more complicated questions that you might have in regards to the vpn solutions.  The easiest VPN solution that I have found to install and maintain at this time is with Netgear. The FVS114 appliance allows you to have up to 8 concurrent tunnels open; you can find more information regarding it at this link. http://netgear.com/products/details/FVS114.php and then you'll also have to purchase the vpn client at the opposite end unless you also purchase another box to connect at his end. http://www.netgear.com/products/details/VPN01L_VPN05L.php.

Now, if I'm correct I believe that I read that you are using Comcast.  Comcast residential does not give you a static ip, but they do give you a dynamic IP. http://www.comcast.com/Support/Corp1/FAQ/FaqDetail_2428.html.  Now, I haven't tried this as of yet, been talking to them, but from what they made me understand is that their dynamic ip configuration is somewhat similar to that of dynamic dns services.  So you should be able to use that ip from them at all times.

Also, if you decide to go with a remote desktop type of situation and if you're using Windows XP Pro.  You have access to what is called Remote Desktop.  If you need help setting that up let me know.  It works like a smaller version of terminal server.   There you can have a couple of people logged into the same terminal much like the other programs that you had mentioned but they all have their own separate profiles running without interrupting your work.

Comment from dgrrr
Date: 01/05/2006 12:07AM PST
Your Comment


To ALL:

First, my apologies -- in going over these options you've talked about with my friend, I learned that NOBODY actually used remote admin software (gotomypc or pcanywhere) to connect FROM Boston TO my friends network (Calif).  GoToMyPC was ONLY used for the BOSTON guy to connect from his BOSTON workplace to his BOSTON home pc.

At this point, we are all leaning toward the VPN solution, since it seems a surer thing.  Since we haven't actually used remote admin yet in this context (again, my apologies!), doing so is a big question mark… But some of the questions below are about remote admin, for my own education.

I am checking with MYOB to confirm what "boston to calif" situations would allow or disallow simult access to the database (RA vs VPN).  At least locally, all PC's use "multi-user version" of the MYOB program that acts as both server/client software, to connect to the database saved on ONE of the local pcs.

My friends are willing put the database on the web -- but apparently MYOB does NOT have an online database option, and my friends don't want to switch software (e.g. to peachtree / netsuite / quicken online). (thanks for the links, plemiex72)




to Plemiex72 - when you said,
"A VPN server alone will not provide anything additional than the GoToMyPC solution"
-- Wouldn't ANY remote admin solution use MORE local PC resources than a VPN solution?  With VPN, Boston accesses only the VPN server router and the HD / database file locally, whereas with a Remote Admin solution, he's using the hd, screen, ram, cpu, etc? AND takes over the local PC?


to Pentrix2
"The virtual PC has its own Operating system and IP so it'll act just like another PC.  It's like taking away dqrrr's PC and putting a Virtual PC in it's place."
-- Don't you mean it "add's" the second operating system -- so that on my local screen I could "switch" back and forth between my "host" OS screen, and the "virtual OS" - sort of like user switching?


to Jeff Overley
-- Is there a difference between "remote admin" and "remote desktop"?  Which one allows the local user to continue working (by putting the remote activity in its own session, or however?)



to ALL
-- you guys are being great, & patient -- I will add points

Comment from plemieux72
Date: 01/05/2006 09:06PM PST
Comment Accept

>>"A VPN server alone will not provide anything additional than the GoToMyPC solution"
>>-- Wouldn't ANY remote admin solution use MORE local PC resources than a VPN solution?  With VPN, Boston accesses only the VPN server router and the HD / database file locally, >>whereas with a Remote Admin solution, he's using the hd, screen, ram, cpu, etc? AND takes over the local PC?

A VPN server only allows you to connect from the Internet to that office.  Once connected, you still have to use remote desktop or some kind of client to see/update the database.  So, the VPN will take resources at the VPN client and server.  Then, the client used to access the database will take resources on the PC hosting the database (and the client on the other side of the VPN).

Comment from dgrrr
Date: 01/08/2006 10:17PM PST
Your Comment

you wrote...
>>you still have to use remote desktop or some kind of client to see/update the database

by "some kind of client" do you mean something besides the MYOB client program? (which as I understand it is simply a multi-user version of the program?)

Or will VPN + MYOB multi user version suffice?

right now MYOB multi user version allows PC1 to access the database on PC2 across the room, thru the router / local network.  So I want to know if this MYOB + VPN Router will allow boston to edit the database.

OF course, MYOB will have to tell me. But does your understanding of the above situation indicate that a "remote admin" will ALSO be necessary?


Comment from plemieux72
Date: 01/09/2006 06:10AM PST
Comment Accept

Ok, HOW do you connect to the MYOB database on PC2 from PC1?  Have you installed a MYOB client on PC1?  Or, do you just connect via Remote Desktop?

From what I understand, you are trying to do away with Remote Desktop because it "takes-over" the desktop while someone might be logged in on PC2 and working on something else like Word or whatever...

If that's the case, to fully solve your problem, a different way of connecting to PC2's MYOB database is required.  MYOB tech support would be able to help you with that.  AND, finally, installing a remote access VPN solution will allow any authorized remote user to access PC2 from remote PCs just like PC1 does from the internal LAN.

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