As all of us are now working remotely, this puts an additional strain on the VPN service. Here are a few pointers to help you work more effectively with VPN while you work remotely:
Disconnect from the VPN
Please disconnect from the VPN service when you are not using resources that require it, or when you walk away from the computer. This is just like turning the lights off when you leave the room! Whenever you think of moving away from the computer, or you are not using services that require the VPN, disconnect from the VPN.
The VPN can handle a limited amount of simultaneous connections. You could be preventing someone else from using it when they need it. Here are some of the most common services that require use of the VPN: network shares on campus, Colleague, Business Objects, and ImageNow. You do not need to use the VPN for Gmail, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Zoom - use of the VPN for these services will actually hinder your experience of these services. Please write to us via AskIT@amherst.edu if you have questions about a specific service.
Use computing devices without the VPN
Your smartphone, tablet (iOS or Android), Chromebook, and laptops are fully working computers. You can reach services provided by the college (Gmail, Google Drive, Dropbox, Zoom, and others) from almost any device, and using the VPN to reach them makes no difference as far as security is concerned. In fact, the VPN can actually hinder your experience while you use them.
Use Cloud Storage - Stop Depending on Network Shares
Google Drive is our primary recommendation for file storage moving forward for non-PII data. Google Drive is FERPA compliant. If you depend on network shares for non-PII data, you should copy files for your active projects to Google Drive at this time. The plan is to completely remove dependency on traditional network shares, which require the VPN and are much slower off campus. You can download Google Drive File Stream to a Windows or Mac computer to work with the files locally on the computer. If you have questions about PII, please contact AskIT@amherst.edu.
Reduce and Eliminate Dependency on Remote Desktop Connections
If you regularly depend on a desktop computer on campus via a remote desktop connection, you should significantly reduce and eventually eliminate your dependency on this method of work as it is not reliable on a long-term basis. One power outage could turn off the desktop computer, and you will not be able to reconnect without physical access to it first. Remote desktop depends heavily on the campus network. It is unnecessary as you have a fully working computer with you already which can handle all the tasks that the desktop computer handles. Here are some links to help with the transition, as you can access the following resources using the computer you currently use for remote desktop connections:
Google Drive: https://drive.google.com
While you transition to cloud storage, you can connect to network shares from the computer you currently have, so you may retrieve active projects and copy them to Google Drive.
Google Drive will allow you to completely bypass VPN and traditional network shares, which are problematic off campus. Please contact us at AskIT@amherst.edu, if you need help creating department shares using Google’s Shared drives.