25 May 2004

Access to the UC Network from home

While it would be extremely convenient to be able to access the University network from off-campus, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed if this is to happen.

The Division's Vision for ICT in the Division [authentication required] seeks to provide access to the Division's resources from anywhere at any time. With network storage this requires HomeDrives to be available from off-campus as well as from the University campus.

Home drives often contain sensitive information that needs to be kept confidential, so the security of any access allowed to information stored on home drives must be maintained. The University has decided to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, approach to providing people physically outside the University campus with access to the resources they should be allowed to see.

A current proposal to provide wireless access to the University network from on-campus includes the development of the systems necessary to support the establishment of VPN connections to the University network. Once this infrastructure is in place it will also allow people from off-campus to establish VPN connections to the network over a wired connection from anywhere on the Internet. Although it may be slower that access while on campus (depending on the connection speed and network traffic), a user will be able to access all the network resources they are entitled to see as if they were on campus.

Establishing a VPN connection to the University network from outside the campus (say from home) will still require an Internet connection. The University's current policy is that staff and student need to organise their own accounts with commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) if they wish to use UC on-line resources from home (http://www.canberra.edu.au/cc/off-campus/ [link updated]).

Allowing staff to access the University network from home (and through that connection to the Internet) is difficult for a number of reasons, including:

  • Providing the infrastructure involved for the network connections (via dialup modems, for example).
  • Managing access through off-campus connections.
  • The traffic costs to the University.
  • Monitoring access to the University network, which is a part of the Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet), and thence to the Internet via the campus network. Use of the University network is is subject to AARNet Policy as formulated by the AVCC and limits the uses to which the networks can be put.

The technical complexity of limiting people from home who access the University network, just to the University network itself is high and would probably need other changes to the way the network is managed to ensure services are available. Some services available on the University network (like some of the Library research databases, for example) would not be available unless additional work was done, if at all.