Always On VPN Overview

As technology continues to improve and the workplace continues to evolve, remote workers have become more common. Effectively supporting these remote workers means re-evaluating legacy remote access solutions. This post will look at Microsoft’s current remote access solution, Always On VPN.

Always On VPN is a Microsoft remote access solution that is built into Windows 10. Microsoft has positioned Always On VPN as the replacement for their older remote access solution (DirectAccess).

When planning a deployment of Always On VPN, keep in mind that it is a solution for users or devices that need remote access to local resources on a corporate network. Users with access to cloud resources, and devices managed by cloud-enabled tools may not require a VPN connection.

How Does Always On VPN Work?

Always On VPN is a solution that allows a client to automatically establish a VPN connection without any user interaction. The technology that makes this possible is the VPNv2 CSP node, which is built into Windows 10. This CSP (configuration service provider) allows the built-in Windows 10 VPN client to be configured using an MDM solution (Intune), or PowerShell.

The server side of a typical Always On VPN deployment requires at least one VPN server and one authentication (RADIUS) server. A common solution is to use Windows Server with the Routing and Remote Access role installed for the VPN server, and Windows Server with the Network Policy Server role installed for the RADIUS server. However, these servers do not need to be Microsoft servers. Third party solutions or appliances can be used. Additionally, a certificate authority is required to issue certificates to the servers and clients. The certificates will be used to authenticate the VPN connection.

The Windows 10 VPN client can be configured to connect a user authenticated tunnel or a device authenticated tunnel. Both types of tunnels can be connected simultaneously if required.

User Tunnel

The User Tunnel is established when a user logs into a computer. This type of tunnel is ideal for granting access to file shares or applications.

Here is a high-level overview of the connection process for a Always On VPN user tunnel.

  1. The VPN client sends a connection request to the external IP address of the VPN server
  2. The edge firewall passes the connection request to the external interface of the VPN server
  3. The VPN server passes the connection request to the RADIUS server. The connection request leaves via the internal interface of the VPN server and passes through the internal firewall
  4. The RADIUS server receives and authenticates the connection request
  5. The RADIUS server returns an accept or deny response to the VPN server
  6. The VPN server allows or denies the connection request based on the response from the RADIUS server

Device Tunnel

The Device Tunnel is established as soon as a computer is powered on and connected to the internet. A user does not need to be logged into a computer for a device tunnel to connect. This type of tunnel is ideal for granting access to Active Directory or other management servers like Configuration Manager.

Here is a high-level overview of the connection process for a Always On VPN device tunnel.

  1. The VPN client sends a connection request to the external IP address of the VPN server
  2. The edge firewall passes the connection request to the external interface of the VPN server
  3. The VPN server validates the computer authentication certificate of the client and allows or denies the connection request

Notice that the device tunnel does not use RADIUS for authentication. The VPN server preforms the authentication. This prevents device tunnels from taking advantage of more advanced Always On VPN features like conditional access and multi-factor authentication. For more guidance on when to utilize device tunnels refer to this post.

VPN Protocols

Always On VPN utilizes familiar VPN infrastructure, which means that it can also utilize familiar VPN protocols. There are two main protocols that make the most sense to use when working with Always On VPN.

IKEv2

Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) has good security and good performance. Its ability to automatically re-connect after a short interruption gives it good reliability as well. The primary concern with using IKEv2 is that communication happens on UDP 500 and UDP 4500. This makes it more likely that the connection will be blocked by firewalls.

Note that when using a Always On VPN device tunnel, IKEv2 is the only supported protocol.

SSTP

Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) also has good security, and good performance. The main benefit of using SSTP is that communication happens on TCP 443, so it is very unlikely that it will be blocked anywhere. The downsides to SSTP are that it is not quite as secure as IKEv2, and it does not handle connection interruptions as well.

ProfileXML

As I mentioned earlier, Always On VPN utilizes the built-in Windows 10 VPN client. This client is configured using the VPNv2 CSP node. Configuring the settings in the VPNv2 CSP node can be accomplished using an XML file. Once the XML file is created, it can be deployed to systems through Intune or through Configuration Manager using PowerShell. For more information on the XML configuration and deployment, see the Microsoft Documentation.

Additional Reading

This post was a high-level look at the technology behind Always On VPN. For a detailed guide on creating a basic Always On VPN deployment, refer to the Microsoft Documentation. I would also recommend reading Richard Hicks’s blog. Additionally, Now Micro will be hosting a Tech Connect webinar on Always On VPN next month (May 2020). More details can be found on our Events Page.

Office 365 Announces ProPlus Device-based Subscription for Education

Office 365 ProPlus Device-based Subscription for Education provides administrators an experience that mirrors the user-based model, but with ease of management and access to the desktop Office 365 desktop apps. You can assign the device-based subscription to any device within the institution’s organization, including, but not limited to open access, lab or library devices providing consistent user experience.

Attention IT administrators: Announcing Office 365 ProPlus Device-based Subscription for Education!

Configuring LAPS (Part 2)- Configuring and Deploying Group Policy

This post is the second part of a two-part series on configuring and deploying the Microsoft Local Administrator Password Solution (LAPS). The first post covered the steps needed to configure Active Directory to support LAPS. That post can be found here . This post will cover the steps needed to enable the LAPS functionally on devices.
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Configuring LAPS (Part 1)- Configuring Active Directory

Why is Local Administrator Password Management Needed?

The question of how to deal with users having administrative rights on computers or other network resources is one that has many different answers and has evolved over time. While the scenarios around network and domain administrative access may be more complex, the local administrative rights scenario should be very similar for almost everyone.

Continue reading “Configuring LAPS (Part 1)- Configuring Active Directory”

Email Notification for Security Changes in ConfigMgr

Have you ever had a deployment or maybe a security change that happened with no one noticing? Maybe you’re working with a team and someone accidentally deployed to the wrong collection. We all have busy schedules, it’s not easy stay on top of changes or deployments in Configuration Manager. Therefore, we need to take advantage of the built-in status system. This post will walk you through creating a status filter rule that sends an email whenever a security setting is created, modified, or deleted in ConfigMgr.
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Now Micro, Inc, Named CRN® Triple Crown Award Winner

Now Micro, Inc, Named CRN® Triple Crown Award Winner

Fourth Annual Award Program Recognizes Standout Solution Providers

St Paul, MN, October 2, 2017 – Now Micro, Inc, today announced that CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, has honored Now Micro, Inc with its esteemed 2017 Triple Crown Award. Forty North American solution providers had the necessary revenue, growth and technical expertise to be recognized on three of CRN’s pre-eminent solution provider lists, earning them the Triple Crown Award this year.
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Decommission ADFS: How to switch from ADFS to Password Sync for Office 365

Recently, two new methods for Office 365 SSO have become available: Azure AD Seamless SSO, and Azure AD Domain Join. Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) had (and still has) its place within Office 365 environments, but it is not nearly as attractive and easy to use as the new methods. Continue reading “Decommission ADFS: How to switch from ADFS to Password Sync for Office 365”

Now Micro, Inc Named to CRN’s 2017 Solution Provider 500 List

St, Paul, MN, June 5, 2017 – Now Micro, Inc, announced today that CRN®, a brand of The Channel Company, has named Now Micro, Inc to its 2017 Solution Provider 500 list. The Solution Provider 500 is CRN’s annual ranking of the largest technology integrators, solution providers and IT consultants in North America by revenue. Continue reading “Now Micro, Inc Named to CRN’s 2017 Solution Provider 500 List”