How to Set Up VPN Access to Use Your iPad at Work

By Galen Gruman

If you want to use your iPad at work, you may want to set up VPN access. You’ve no doubt read the stories about hackers lurking in cafes and lounges that have public Wi-Fi access, using sniffer tools to intercept the communication between computing devices and the Wi-Fi hotspot so that they can pull out usernames and passwords that they can then sell to criminals.

The Wi-Fi snooping risk is real, though greatly exaggerated. A better target, after all, is your home network, where an attacker can camp out nearby and know it’s your information he’s getting. This is something that a high-level exec or rich family might be targeted for. (That’s why you should always use secured networks at home.)

So, many companies insist that you use a virtual private network (VPN) to access at least some of their systems when connecting via the Internet. A VPN provides a secure connection between your device and the corporate server, even if you connect via a network that your IT departments doesn’t manage — including public hotspots, your home network, and hotel networks.

The iPad has built-in support for VPNs, including the popular Cisco IPSec variant. You set up VPN access by going to the Settings app and then following these steps:

  1. Go to the General screen.

  2. Scroll down until you see VPN; then tap it.

  3. In the screen that opens, tap Add VPN Configuration.

  4. Select the type of VPN from the tabs at the top; then fill in the required information (your IT department will need to provide it).

  5. Tap Save.

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To enable the VPN, set the switch at the top of the VPN screen to On. After that, you’ll see the VPN option at the top-left portion of the Settings app, so you can easily turn it on or off. When you turn the VPN on, you may be required to enter a password, based on the VPN’s settings.

Your iPad will work normally when a VPN is active. All that’s different is that you can use some corporate resources unavailable when the VPN is not on. However, the use of a VPN can slow down your Internet activities because all communications is going through your company network first. That’s a good reason to turn the VPN on only when you need to use it.

When the VPN is active, you see the VPN symbol at the left side of the iPad’s status bar.

You can have more than one VPN installed. But only one can be active at any one time. In the VPN screen, the one that has a check mark is the one that is turned off and on via the switch at the top of the VPN screen. To change the active VPN, turn off the VPN, select a different one from the list, and turn the VPN back on.

The VPN may automatically disconnect after your iPad goes to sleep, and it will definitely disconnect when you lose Internet access or turn the iPad off.

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