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It's virtually private.

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You're running late at work. You have a bunch of stuff to bring home for that big presentation in the morning. You gather your things together, fight the traffic, arrive at your humble abode and sit down for a night of slaving for the man, and then it hits you.

That one file you need is on the server at your office, and the table of contents is on the desktop of your office computer. What now?

This is just one example of the joy of using a virtual private network, or VPN. Sure, you could use GoToMyPC (which is a retail service-bureau version of a VPN), and people often do. Or, your company can set up a private, encrypted, direct access path that lets you log in to their network, and access any of the same resources you'd have if you were sitting at your desk at work.

More than just a way of logging in to your work PC, a VPN allows the company to use strong encryption tools, secure login methods and robust file transfer protocols to let workers extend their workspaces to anywhere they can access the Internet. You company assigns you a VPN login and password, plus gives you special software (and sometimes hardware) that makes access to the VPN possible.

And you can even do the reverse: if you work from home, Linksys and other manufacturers have special VPN-enabled versions of home broadband routers that you can set up with your very own virtual private network and login to your home PC network from anywhere in the world.

So just think - you can remind your kids to do their chores by printing a quick "TAKE OUT THE TRASH" in 72-point Verdana on your home printer, from that Internet cafe in Morocco - just be sure to have set up your virtual private network ahead of your trip.

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