Since I don’t use a laptop as my production machine, I sometimes find myself away from my production computer without that important file that I need to work on after hours. It became frustrating, because I knew there were plenty of choices of software that would allow me to create a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, but I didn’t know which software package to choose. Paralysis by analysis.

After a few weeks of research, I found an unobtrusive and secure VPN tool called Hamachi that allows me to connect to my office computer from my home computer and vice-versa. Wikipedia offers the following definition of Hamachi: “Hamachi is a centrally-managed zero-configuration virtual private network (VPN) freeware application capable of establishing direct links between computers that are behind NAT firewalls without requiring reconfiguration (in most cases); in other words, it establishes a connection over the Internet, to create conditions very similar to that as if the computers were connected over a local area network. ”

There are three reasons I ended up choosing Hamachi:

First, it is easy to install, runs easily without configuration headaches, and is platform-agnostic. All I did to get it working was download the software and install, type in the passwords, and the network was running. Both my home computer and work computers sit behind NAT routers, and my Mac at home and my Windows XP machine at work acted as if they were peers on the same network.

Second, it is free. At this price, it is easy to download and test, and I don’t have to worry about byzantine licensing issues.

Finally, there was a good review and discussion about the security features of Hamachi on the highly-regardedSecurity Now podcast. Basically, Hamachi encrypts data in a manner that makes it almost impenetrable: When a Hamachi peer sends data to a member of the network, it encrypts the data before sending it through the Internet. At the other location, the authenticated peer verifies that the data has not been altered or duplicated and decrypts it.

I feel like I made the right choice: Hamachi has saved me countless hours, and it can save you time too.