Anybody who has ever been a Systems Administrator can attest to one thing: there is no such thing as “after hours.” In today’s society, this statement holds even more truth, as monitoring tools, email access via Internet and smart phone integration have become part of every IT professional’s life. If you ever find yourself at home deep into a movie or out with friends enjoying a beverage, inevitably your pocket will vibrate with a friendly reminder that, although you are physically away from work, you are never really “away from work.”
Thankfully, my employer understands how taxing this can be and tries to ensure that we are on the cutting-edge of technology, making our always-on way of life a little less stressful. One of the greatest connectivity tools that we have introduced to our environment is DirectAccess.
With the increasing need to be available at all times and anywhere, the flaws of relying on VPN become more and more evident. For example, you may have no issue connecting through your controlled environment at home, whereas the security rules in your local Internet Café slap you back Dikembe Mutumbo-style. If you are lucky enough to get connected, chances are that you will have to make several attempts due to timeout issues, or the connectivity provides a less-than-desired experience.
DirectAccess will allow you to automatically connect to your corporate network EVERY TIME an Internet connection is available. That means, wherever you are when “the sky is falling” at work, you can simply open the lid of your mobile workstation (or, in my case, tap my Surface Pro for nearly instantaneous results), connect to wi-fi and immediately access shared folders, internal network applications, etc.
The use of DirectAccess not only relieves some of the stress of the IT administrator’s life, but it also improves accessibility for the end-user. Undeniably, not every user in your organization understands VPN, from initiating a connection to whether or not they have an established session. DirectAccess not only ensures that the steps that a user has to take to launch VPN are no longer a factor, it also guarantees that the employee will be able to access internal resources, whether it be shared folders, intranet sites or email (if OWA or Outlook Anywhere are not already configured).
Naturally, DirectAccess is not a solution for every environment. There are certain limitations, such as legacy OS compatibility (both client and server side), inability to utilize a non-domain joined machine, etc. However, many inferred “shortcomings” have very easy workarounds, and we will show you an example in a future post “DirectAccess:IPv6 in an IPv4 Environment.” Comparatively, the benefits of utilizing DirectAccess over VPN far outweigh the shortcomings, especially as your infrastructure continues to advance into the future.