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As I’ve covered in my previous article about setting up a home server, a centralized location for your data can prove to be a huge benefit to yourself and the overall productivity and collaboration of your family.  A home server can help you to make all of your data accessible from within your local network, but what about when you want to access your data from afar?

This is where the concept of VPN’s, or Virtual Private Networks, comes into play.  In basic, a VPN allows you to link multiple machines via the internet, and thus access all of your data and information from the server.  The concept of VPN’s is not a new one in the least; the concept has been around since the hay-day of dial-up internet, and is the basis for the technology that allows employees to “telecommute”.

Traditionally, VPN’s take a great deal of time, effort, and resources to set up, and are not typically conceived as being reasonable for a home user to set up.  However, with a zero-configuration VPN service such as LogMeIn’s Hamachi product, setting up a VPN and accessing your server’s contents from afar becomes a trivial task that can be completed within a matter of minutes.

  • The first step in configuring Hamachi is to access your server either physically or via Remote Desktop or VNC
  • Once you are logged into your server, navigate your web browser to http://logmeinhamachi.com, and select the “Get Started” button.
  • LogMeIn offers two versions of Hamachi; a managed version, and an unmanaged version.  The managed version has a bit more features, including an online control-panel.  This tutorial will cover the managed edition, as this version gives you more control over your VPN.  To begin the process, click the “Create Account” button below the “Managed” product.
  • The next screen you will be presented with will ask for a bit of information to establish your account.  It’s a pretty simple form, and should only take a few seconds to fill out.
  • On the screen that follows, you will want to select the “Start Creating Networks” button.  This will allow you to establish the name and description of the network, as well as choose the infrastructure type of your network.
  • While LogMeIn Hamachi offers three network types (Mesh, Hub-and-Spoke, and Gateway), most people will want to use either the “Mesh” or the “Hub-and-Spoke”.  With the “Mesh”, all members of the network act as servers (when configured correctly), while the “Hub-and-Spoke” setup only allows designated servers to share, and does not allow standard workstations to connect to one-another.  Because I sometimes need the flexibility of sharing files directly from my home computer (as opposed to only via the server), I will use the “Mesh” setup.
  • The next screen will ask you how you want to go about adding computers to your network.  I highly discourage using the “Accept automatically” option, as it will allow anyone to access your network. Rather, I suggest using the “Must be approved” option, as well as setting a password that will be required for a member to request approval.
  • Once you have your network configured, the next step is to add clients to your network.  To do so, click on the “Continue to add client” button on the next screen.
  • Firstly, you will want to install Hamachi on the server (which you should be logged into at this point).  This will make the files accessible to the other computers on your VPN once you add them in the next few steps.  To do this, select the “Install LogMeIn Hamachi on this computer” radio box, and select “Continue”.
  • You will be presented with a page to download the software.  You should be able to simply accept the default options during setup.
  • Once you have finished the installation, the Hamachi application will launch, and you will be presented with the option to “Join an existing network”.  Select this option, and enter your network name and password as set earlier.
  • At this point, you should have successfully set up Hamachi on your server, and should now be ready to do so on the other computers that you will want to connect (e.g. laptops).
  • To set up additional clients, go to http://logmeinhamachi.com from your client computers, and select the “Get started” button.
  • You will then be prompted to download and install the software onto the client computer.  Again, selecting the default installation options should be sufficient.
  • As with the server, you will need to select the “Join existing network” button, and enter your details as needed.

Lastly, once all of your clients have been added, you will need to return to the LogMeIn Hamachi page and approve the adding of computers into your network.

With the LogMeIn Hamachi client, you will be able to browse the network shares of the computers within your network, as well as start group and private chats.

All in all, LogMeIn Hamachi provides a dead-simple method of setting up a VPN and expanding your home network.  Another use for Hamachi is if you are a gamer, you can easily setup VPN for you and your gaming buddies to game amongst yourselves.  Hamachi is free only for personal (non-commercial) use.  If you are a business or need to have more than sixteen computers on your network, you will need to purchase a Hamachi pro license.


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