May 03, 2011, 9:35 AM — While there are plenty of ways to protect your iPad and its data from ne'er do wells, one way is of specific interest to business users: the virtual private network or VPN.
Out of the box, with no additional software, the iPad supports three kinds of VPNs: Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), and Cisco IPSec (that stands for Internet Protocol Security). All three do much the same thing, just in different ways. The kind of VPN you set up on your iPad depends entirely on the kind of VPN that's set up on the network you're connecting to.
The iPad also supports what are known as SSL VPNs, which use the same SSL protocols that Websites use when they want to secure the connection so you can send sensitive data to them, without worrying about someone else sniffing that data for their own uses. The iPad supports SSL VPNs from Juniper, Cisco, and F5, although you need to download clients for those from the App store. You can also create your own custom SSL VPN setup if you wish.
Get set up
I can't provide details for every possible VPN set up, but I can explain how I'd set one up using Cisco IPSec: It's relatively common and it's the one I use; you'll follow the same general procedure for any of the others.
Start by going into Settings, and then tap VPN. Select Add VPN Configuration and then IPSec. There, you'll need to fill in a configuration screen with the following details:
- Server (the IP Address or DNS name of the VPN router);
- Account (also known as a user ID);
- Either a certificate (which will be provided for your iPad by the VPN administrator) or (in a field further down) or a Secret (that's VPN-ese for a second password that provides another layer of authentication; unlike your password, a Secret isn't specific to the user); and
- Group Name (used to assign appropriate access privileges to different types of users; for example, your IT group likely has different kinds of access compared to, say, Sales).
Before you go to the trouble of entering all of that manually, check with your IT department. IT may be able to use Apple's iPhone Configuration Utility to create a configuration profile, which you install on the iPad and which configures the VPN for you.
How to use it