University faculty and students who make a standard upgrade from a 32-bit to 64-bit version of Windows may find themselves unable to connect to their school networks off-campus, with even a simple task such as trying to check school eMail from home yielding an error message.
The culprit: schools may be using a remote access system that is incompatible with many university members’ new computers.
Read more about Windows in higher education…
Most schools provide their members with remote access to school technology through a virtual private network (VPN).
While there are security measures built into on-campus networks, a VPN encrypts data before it is sent across a connection, allowing users to maintain security when they access school resources from off-campus.
In an educational environment, data security is particularly important because staff may upload sensitive information such as student grades, records, and exams from home.
When users upgrade their computers, they may migrate from a 32-bit version of Windows, such as Windows XP, to a 64-bit version such as Windows Vista or Windows 7.
A 64-bit system can handle large amounts of random access memory (RAM) more efficiently than a 32-bit system. However, 64-bit systems are not compatible with most schools’ existing VPN clients.
In particular, many universities found that the popular Cisco Systems IPSEC VPN Client was no longer sufficient, unleashing a barrage of complaints.
Cisco Systems has released a new VPN client called AnyConnect, which is compatible with 64-bit versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, but other solutions to this problem have also become available.
The University of Akron, a 30,000-student public research university in northeast Ohio, uses the Secure Entry Client software created by NCP engineering, Inc. that supports VPN connection for 64-bit devices.
“With the advent of Windows 7, university members could not access the network because of the compatibility issues that 64-bit devices presented. They needed a solution and needed it quickly,” said James Miller, lead network engineer at the University of Akron. “The NCP Secure Entry Client was an immediate solution to the problem. The transition was seamless. Staff, faculty, and students purchased their new PCs, installed the VPN clients, and continued working off-campus at the same level of efficiency as when on campus, if not more.”
Rainer Enders, a chief technology officer for NCP engineering, said his company was proud to be the first to tackle the 64-bit VPN compatibility issue.
“In the case of the University of Akron, it was very simple, as the existing VPN client was not compatible with Windows 7,” Enders said. “The goal was just having a client that works on Windows 7, period.”
NCP Secure Entry Client offers flexibility with operating systems including 32- and 64-bit versions of Mac OSX, Windows, and Linux.
The Secure Entry Client also features a dynamic personal firewall that allows school IT administrators to control ports, IP addresses, and segments in compliance with school network security policies.
“Customers seem very happy,” Enders said. “A lot of customers actually are not using many of the advanced features in the client. We pretty much have all the features they want and more.”
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