Access to many electronic materials and services that students at the University of Helsinki use are restricted so that they can be used within the university network. This might be due to information security or because the university has to pay for the services and therefore they cannot be made available to users other than university students or staff. Services restricted to the university network include, among others, several library services, such as dictionaries and search databases with their text materials. Other services that require a connection to the university network include, for instance, remote access to the home directory.
When you are working from home or abroad when you are an exchange student, for example, you are normally outside the university network. In this case, you cannot access the services restricted to the university’s internal network without a remote connection with the university network.
At the University of Helsinki, there are two ways to form a connection with the university network:
- The VPN connection software Pulse Secure
- The VPN portal accessible with a web browser
The services differ from each other slightly. As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that you install the VPN connection software in all frequently used devices. For occasional use, a better alternative is the browser-based VPN portal. Familiarise yourself with the service features presented further on this page, so that you can choose the remote connection with the university network that suits you best!
Pulse Secure is an easy-to-use program, developed by Juniper Networks, which forms a secure VPN connection to the university network. In a VPN connection, your computer’s network traffic circulates safely through an encrypted “tunnel” to the university servers. Your computer will also be assigned an IP address within the university’s address space, making it in practice part of the university network for as long as the connection is open. Thanks to this, the VPN connection allows you to access all services restricted to the university network, such as the library databases and your own home directory. It is also recommended that you use the VPN connection when you are using an open wireless network in order to secure data transmission.
Pulse Secure is available for all the most common operating systems and mobile devices. You can therefore use Pulse Secure to easily connect to the university’s library databases and dictionaries also on your mobile phone or tablet.
You can download the installation program for Pulse Secure from the University of Helsinki’s Download Centre. Instructions and links for the installation and use of Pulse Secure can be found on the University of Helsinki’s Helpdesk site.
Below is a summary of the program’s pros and cons:
|+||Easy to use after first installation|
|+||The connection is encrypted all the way to the university, which means that evil-doers e.g. in open wireless networks cannot “eavesdrop” on your traffic|
|–||Installation requires reading the instructions, but they do help you get the installation done quickly|
The VPN portal is a simple service accessible with a web browser, enabling you to use many services accessible only from within the university network, such as your Z home directory, library databases and its MOT dictionaries, with a single sign-on. Therefore, it is a kind of “light” version of Pulse Secure that was described earlier. Instructions and more information about the VPN portal can be found on the IT Center’s Helpdesk site.
Below are listed the VPN portal’s features in a nutshell:
|+||Easy to take into use: log in on the web site at www.vpn.helsinki.fi and the service is available for your use|
|+||You can also access the most important library services with the same sign-on|
|+||The VPN portal is the easiest way to access your home directory from your own computer…|
|–||…although managing files through it is more difficult than if you added the home folder on your desktop.|