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Overview of Cisco AnyConnect VPN Client (vpn.mit.edu)

Summary

The Cisco AnyConnect VPN client is Cisco's web browser launch-able VPN client. It replaces the older Cisco VPN Client and service MIT previously used, and has removed several of the old client's limitations, including 64-bit operating system support. The new Cisco AnyConnect VPN client and service will work under Mac OS X (including 10.6 Snow Leopard and up), Windows Vista and Windows 7 and 8 (including 64-bit versions), and Linux. Installation and startup can all be handled either via a manual installation or through a web page which will install and launch a signed ActiveX or Java VPN client and connect to MIT's VPN service.

For more information see the IS&T service page for the VPN

More information

1. Easy web-based installer and launcher

Members of the community can start at vpn.mit.edu both to install the software and to connect to the VPN. No certificates or download are necessary. You just enter your MIT username and password into the secure web form and the process starts. Usually, no other information is necessary.

2. Cross-platform browser-based technologies

The web-based client install and launch works under current versions of Internet Explorer, Safari (Mac and Windows), Firefox (Mac, Windows, and Linux), and other browsers. ActiveX and Sun Java are used to try to minimize the need for non-web-based installation and launch if at all possible.

3. Automatic failover

The web-based installer and launcher will try several methods, and automatically fall back to less automated options if necessary. For example, under Windows Internet Explorer, it will try to launch itself as an ActiveX control first. If this fails (for example because the user does not allow the ActiveX control to run, or because vpn.mit.edu is not on the user's list of trusted sites) it will automatically try to launch the Sun Java version instead. If that also fails, it will present a download link to manually download an installer the user can run on their machine.

It tries to be as user-friendly as it can, and will even attempt to detect why a particular method might have failed. For example, if the Java method fails because Java is not installed on your Windows computer (it ships with Macs out of the box) the Cisco AnyConnect web launcher will tell you that and will show you links to download Sun Java so you can install it.

4. Browser-based, but still "resident"

Having the installation and launch be browser-based allows for a consistent and robust mechanism that works more or less the same across operating systems. It makes it easy to quickly install the VPN client on a new system. All one needs to remember is vpn.mit.edu. However, for those who prefer a more "resident" experience, the Cisco AnyConnect VPN client will install itself in the usual places the first time you run it on any particular machine. So, for example, you will find a Cisco folder in your /Applications/ folder on your Mac, or a Cisco entry in your All Programs menu on your Windows machine. These locations will also include small un-installers if you need to quickly remove the client, for example because you installed it on someone else's computer temporarily to use the VPN.

IS&T Contributions

Documentation and information provided by IS&T staff members


Last Modified:

February 23, 2016

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