VPN - FAQ | Office of Information Technology


Last Updated: 04/16/2015


Frequently asked questions about CU-Boulder's VPN offerings.

General FAQ

What is a VPN and why use one?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) provides a secure encrypted tunnel from your computer to the CU-Boulder network whether you are on campus or off, thus allowing access to resources (such as library resources) that require on-campus connections. Use of a VPN is advisable for secure Internet browsing and file server access when connecting wirelessly.

When is it not necessary to use a VPN?
  • When you don't need to connect to CU resources.
  • When accessing OIT email with SSH or Authenticated SMTP.
  • When accessing OIT servers with SSH.
  • When using SSH to access servers (email or otherwise) that are registered with the IT Security office, and thus have an exception through the perimeter firewall to allow SSH traffic.
  • When browsing the Internet or making file transfers from off-campus sites.
Can I use the VPN with my smart phone?

CU-Boulder's Cisco VPN service is available for both Android and Apple iOS. Please refer to the following tutorials to learn how to connect with your smartphone:

Does a VPN offer virus or malware protection?

No. A VPN does not provide protection from viruses or malware. However, OIT offers information and recommendations for several antivirus solutions

Is there a charge for using the VPN?

No. The VPN solutions are provided to campus as common good services. There is no charge to the user for this service.

How long can I stay connected via VPN?
  • The client version will remain connected for up to 24 hours per session (or up to 60 minutes of idle time).
  • When using VPN on a campus computer kiosk, sessions will timeout after 5 minutes of inactivity, with a 10-minute max session.
  • For all other web-based use, the client logs out after 60 minutes of inactivity, with a 24-hour max session.

PLEASE NOTE: It is important to log out of all web sessions. Forgetting to log out from a computer kiosk could give the next user access to your VPN web session.

Do I still have access to my home network while connected to the VPN?

Yes. Both the web-based VPN and Network Connect allow you to be connected to the CU-Boulder network and your home network at the same time.

On which operating systems can I use the SSL VPN?

CU-Boulder’s VPN service can be used with Mac, Windows, Linux, Android and iOS. Visit the Cisco VPN page to learn how to configure your device.

Should I use eduroam or Cisco VPN for my secured connection?

In general, it is best practice to use eduroam for most secured on-campus connections, while Cisco VPN should be used for secured off-campus connections. Refer to the chart below for usage specific usage scenarios:

Service Connection Location Purpose
eduroam On-Campus Create on-campus secure connections that allow users to access file servers and other secured systems, as well as securely browse the internet.
Cisco VPN Off-campus Gain access to campus resources (e.g. library resources, file servers) from off-campus.
Custom VPN On-campus and off-campus In order to to access department specific resources, custom VPN connections should be used on and off campus.