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VPN in a Flash Reborn: Meet the Dedicated Server Edition in PIAF

We’re dusting off our favorite old trademark to introduce the all-new VPN in a Flash™ featuring NeoRouter™ 1.7 Free Server Edition. Last month we showed how to install NeoRouter as an add-on for existing PBX in a Flash™ servers. In sites with 10 or fewer machines to interconnect, this works extremely well. However, for those with major collections of servers and PCs scattered across the universe (up to 256!), you’re going to want dedicated hardware to manage your virtual private network. Thanks to the terrific work of Tom King, you’ve got that choice. Meet VPN in a Flash.

As with PBX in a Flash, the Dedicated Server Edition of VPN in a Flash is offered in 32-bit or 64-bit flavors. How do you get it? It’s now an option in the PBX in a Flash ISO featuring the CentOS 6.2 platform for the ultimate in reliability. Just download the new ISO from SourceForge, burn it to a CD or DVD or, better yet, make yourself a bootable flash drive, and find some hardware to dedicate to the task of managing your virtual private network. Set up the server behind a dedicated firewall on any private LAN other than the 10.0.0.x network. Answer a few prompts to choose your timezone and set up your NeoRouter credentials. Then configure your hardware firewall to lock down the assigned DHCP address of your VPN in a Flash server and map TCP 32976 to the IP address of your VPN server, and you’re done. In 30 minutes, you get a rock-solid, preconfigured VPN. Not only is it SECURE, it’s also FREE!

After your VPN in a Flash server is installed, you can optionally go to the NeoRouter web site and register your new VPN by clicking Create Standalone Domain. Make up a name you can easily remember with no periods or spaces. You’ll be prompted for the IP address of your server in the second screen. FQDNs are NOT permitted.

When a VPN client attempts to login to your server, the server address is always checked against this NeoRouter database first before any attempt is made to resolve an IP address or FQDN using DNS. If no matching entry is found, it will register directly to your server using a DNS lookup of the FQDN. Whether to register your VPN is totally up to you. Logins obviously occur quicker using this registered VPN name, but logins won’t happen at all if your server’s dynamic IP address changes and you’ve hard-coded a different IP address into your registration at neorouter.com.

Setting Up a NeoRouter Client. There are NeoRouter clients available for almost every platform imaginable, except iPhones and iPads. Hopefully, they’re in the works. So Step #1 is to download whatever clients are appropriate to meet your requirements. The VPN in a Flash install automatically loads the Linux clients into the /usr/src/neorouter directory and installs the NeoRouter client for you. Here’s the NeoRouter Download Link for the other clients. Make sure you choose a client for the Free version of NeoRouter. And make sure it is a version 1.7 client! Obviously, the computing platform needs to match your client device. The clients can be installed in the traditional way with Windows machines, Macs, etc.

CentOS NeoRouter Client. As part of the installation above, we have automatically installed the NeoRouter client for your particular flavor of CentOS 6, 32-bit or 64-bit. In order to access resources on your NeoRouter server from other clients, you will need to activate the client on your server as well. This gets the server a private IP address in the network.

To activate the client, type: nrclientcmd. You’ll be prompted for your Domain, Username, and Password. You can use the registered domain name from neorouter.com if you completed the optional registration step above. Or you can use the private IP address of your server. If your router supports hairpin NAT, you can use the public IP address or server’s FQDN, if you have one. After you complete the entries, you’ll get a display that looks something like this:

To exit from NeoRouter Explorer, type: quit. The NeoRouter client will continue to run so you can use the displayed private IP addresses to connect to any other online devices in your NeoRouter VPN. All traffic from connections to devices in the network will flow through NeoRouter’s encrypted VPN tunnel. This includes inter-office SIP and IAX communications between Asterisk® endpoints.

Admin Tools for NeoRouter. Here are a few helpful commands for monitoring and managing your NeoRouter VPN.

Browser access to NeoRouter Configuration Explorer (requires user with Admin privileges)

Browser access to NeoRouter Network Explorer (user with Admin or User privileges)

To access your NeoRouter Linux client: nrclientcmd

To restart NeoRouter Linux client: /etc/rc.d/init.d/nrservice.sh restart

To restart NeoRouter Linux server: /etc/rc.d/init.d/nrserver.sh restart

To set domain: nrserver -setdomain YOUR-VPN-NAME domainpassword

For a list of client devices: nrserver -showcomputers

For a list of existing user accounts: nrserver -showusers

For the settings of your NeoRouter VPN: nrserver -showsettings

To add a user account: nrserver -adduser username password user

To add admin account: nrserver -adduser username password admin

Test VPN access: http://www.neorouter.com/checkport.php

For a complete list of commands: nrserver –help

To change client name from default pbx.local1:

  • Edit /etc/hosts
  • Edit /etc/sysconfig/network
  • Edit /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0
  • reboot

For the latest NeoRouter happenings, follow the NeoRouter blog on WordPress.com.

Eating Our Own Bear Food. We’ve actually been at our SOHO cabin this month "testing" VPN in a Flash. It’s provided instant access both to our desktop machines and servers in Charleston as well as Tom King’s Proxmox server in Florida where we’ve been developing Yate in a Flash™, a new, dedicated SIP to Google Voice Gateway for Asterisk. We’ll have more to say about it next week, or you can follow the link and get a head start. The bottom line on VPN in a Flash: It Just Works! VPN in a Flash frees you from ever having to stay in your home or office to get work done. And it’s been rock-solid reliable. Enjoy!

Originally published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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