VPN Software should come with big warning labels: "WARNING: Does not play well with others."

As a consultant I frequently need to gain access to remote networks via VPN. This means I'm frequently hosing myself by installing yet another VPN client.
That, and I hate connecting to the vast majority of VPNs because they hose my network settings making it impossible to send/recieve email and do other 'normal' things while connected.

So, I recently began toying with the perfect solution: Virtualization.

This approach would work well using Microsoft's Virtual PC or VMware's Workstation - though the performance in VMware really is that much better. (Even if I DO hate the way it steals the volume control on my box and re-sets it to middle of the road each time the VM boots).

But.. here's the solution:
1) Build out a VM/VPC. (You'll need a valid license/copy of Windows - I use XP).
2) Load SQL Server Client Tools on to the box.
3) Install your VPN client software on this box too.

Since I make heavy use of Red Gate's SQL Compare/Data Compare tools, I throw those on my VM  / VPC as well. (I contacted them about this in regards to licensing, their response was that the SQL Comparison tools are licensed per user (though the legal agreement during instal process makes it look a bit differently)). In other words, a licensed user is free to install their copy of the software on as many machines as they like - as long as they are the ONLY user of the software. (Which is excellent, because not having the ability to do this was TOTALLY going to be a deal breaker for me - i.e. not being able to install my Red Gate tools was going to make this whole VM/VPC idea no fun. (Yes, I'm that much of a baby - and yes, the tools are that good).)

With all of this in place, you've now got a virtualized SQL Client that can connect to remote networks via VPN all day long - as much as needed and:
1) no interruption to your main/primary/host machine. (It has no clue that any VPN-stuff is going on at all since it's all taking place on the virtual machine).
2) No more bloat on your main box from all of those clients.
3) If something breaks, you can just restore a previous snapshot or copy of the VM / VPC and you're good to go.
4) If the VPN just starts getting cluttered/gum-ed up, there's no need to repave - just revert to a 'last-known-good' configuration and all the changes you've made over the past little while are gone.

Frankly, spiffy. (There are a few hiccups/nits such as moving files/data back and forth between the virtual machine and your host - but I'd say there's 95% less head-ache and worry than willy-nilly slapping VPN clients on your primary box (since the damned things RARELY un-install correctly).)


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