The essential VPN bookshelf
Given the increasing complexity of technical subjects -- and VPNs definitely count in this category -- it's a good idea every now and then to step back and take a look at what kinds of books are available to help bring readers up to date on a subject, if not to uncover that subject for the first time. With both knowledgeable and first-time audiences in mind, here are my ideas on an essential VPN bookshelf that covers the topic from a gentle introduction to some pretty serious nuts and bolts. For convenience, titles start out "easy" and grow progressively more technical and complex as you dig deeper into this list.
- Mark S. Merkow: Virtual Private Networks For Dummies, Hungry Minds, 2000, Indianapolis, IN. ISBN: 0-7645-0590-4.
- For those with little or no background on the subject, this book provides the most basic, least technical introduction to the subject. Although the "Dummies" nomenclature may seem onerous, this book does a good job of covering the subject, and of uncovering key concepts, technologies, and protocols, plus related design and deployment techniques.
- Dave Kosiur: Building & Managing Virtual Private Networks, John Wiley & Sons, New York. ISBN: 0-471-29526-4.
- For those with some background in networking and protocols, either this book or the next one in the list make ideal introductions to the subject. Kosiur's been writing on networking topics for over 20 years, and his familiarity and understanding shine through in this book. It's nicely pitched, well informed, and full of useful and cogent explanations of buzzwords, concepts, and VPN technologies.
- Dennis Fowler: Virtual Private Networks: Making the Right Connection, Morgan Kaufmann, 1999, San Francisco, CA. ISBN: 1-55860-575-4.
- This book struck me as the perfect introduction to VPNs for those already knowledgeable about networking in general and security and protocols in particular. With excellent discussion of key topics like authentication, encryption, key management, key exchange, secure protocols, and digital signatures, it's an excellent primer on the technologies that support VPNs as well as a good general guide to the topic of VPNs in particular.
- Thaddeus Fortenberry: Windows 2000 Virtual Private Networking, New Riders, 2000, Indianapolis, IN.
- You will find plenty of other books--such as the ones elsewhere in this list-- that do a better job of introducing and explaining VPN terms, concepts, and technologies. But nowhere will you find a better book on how to install, configure, and deploy VPNs in a Windows environment. If you want to do VPNs with Windows, you need this book!
- Ruixi Yuan and W. Timothy Strayer: Virtual Private Networks: Technologies and Solutions, Addison-Wesley, 2001, Reading, MA.
- A favorite upper-division or graduate-level textbook for college courses on networking, this book is the most detailed and technical reference on this list. For those who really need or want to understand the details and the theories that underpin the operation of VPNs (not the same thing as the nuts-and-bolts issues involved in installing, configuring, and managing VPNs, mind you) this is an excellent tome on the subject. For those with heavy networking or engineering backgrounds, this is the ideal introduction to the subject.
Of course, these books are just the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous other good titles on the subject available -- particularly those from Cisco Press, which stress how VPNs work within Cisco infrastructures -- but these elements will help people find their way into this subject. If you have any other favorites, drop me an e-mail and perhaps we'll add them to this list.
Thomas Alexander Lancaster IV is a consultant and author with over ten years experience in the networking industry, focused on Internet infrastructure.
This was first published in December 2001