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The question of whether to migrate IT services to a cloud computing infrastructure arises before most IT decision makers today. To enable secure access to sensitive resources a virtual private network (VPN) is almost a required piece of technology. Setting up and managing a VPN server is a non-trivial task-there are a variety of modes in which VPN can be used (IPSec, SSL/TLS, PPTP), there are a variety of software-only and software-hardware solutions, and each comes with a rich set of configuration options. Therefore, it is a perplexing question to practitioners what option to choose, with an understanding of the performance and the security implications of each choice. In this paper, we consider the various factors that should go into such decision making and exemplify this by choosing among two competitive options for protecting access to IT resources of our NSF center which has a significant number of external (i.e., non-Purdue) users. The two options are an open-source software-only VPN (pfSense) and a commercial appliance, i.e., an integrated hardware-software solution. Further, the first is managed by us while the latter is outsourced to an entity that provides VPN services to multiple consumer organizations, and hence, referred by us as the cloud-based service. We follow up with conducting a post-deployment study of the VPN users which reveals that despite a two-fold reduction in throughput, the cloud-based service is considered satisfactory due to its non-intrusiveness with respect to other network activities and ease of configuration.
Date of Conference: Oct. 30 2012-Nov. 2 2012