Leaf Networks: 'Consumer' VPNs
- Posted: Nov 09, 2007 at 5:51 PM
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What if you could share not just selected files and folders, but your entire network with a group of trusted friends? Leaf Networks software lets you do just that. The Leaf Networks software establishes a connection between your network and those of your friends, allowing the sharing of network-attached devices, PCs, even game consoles and Tivos, and all the content that resides upon them. It's not "all-or-nothing" sharing, though. Leaf users can choose whether or not they want to share drives or folders with others. It's similar to a VPN, but if you want to get technical, Jeff Capone, the company's founder and chief executive explains,"It's not quite a VPN, but more like an Internet-based bridge between networks." I say it's like home networking on the WAN (wide-area network) level.
During the program's beta, 25,000 users signed up to test it out and now that the service has officially launched, it's available as a free download to anyone. With Leaf Networks software installed, you can access your friend's music, pictures, and movies and play them on your digital media center (like Windows Media Center), just as if their PC physically resided on your own home network. You can even set up game sharing for your Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles.
To use the software, you first download the client to your PC. The user interface asks you to pick a username and password, and then add either the email or username of a friend. If the other person is online during the setup, you can use the IM-like window that appears so you and your friend can verify each other's authenticity and discuss what you're sharing via a chat. Once the network is established, each person picks what folders, drives, or servers are being shared. An important final step for each person is to make sure the app is permitted for use in by their anti-virus software and made "trusted" by their firewall programs.