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VPN Quick-Start Guide

January 10, 2024

A Quick-Start Guide for UNF Students, Staff, and Faculty

Hello Ospreys!
You may have heard the term VPN, or Virtual Private Network, thrown around in conversations about internet security or remote work. But what is a VPN, and why might you consider using one? This guide aims to demystify the concept, explain how to connect to a VPN, and highlight some key reasons why staff and faculty at The University of North Florida might benefit from using a VPN.
Effective 10/09/2023: The University's VPN switched to Microsoft Authenticator for two-factor authentication. Prior to this date, those accessing the VPN continued to use Duo.

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that encrypts your internet connection, making it more secure. When you use a VPN, your data travels through a secure "tunnel," making it difficult for third parties to intercept or monitor your online activities.  

visual of a laptop connecting to the internet through a VPN server

How to Get Started

The University of North Florida offers a VPN service to all faculty and staff with the help of an application that's easy to install and use, called FortiClient. To get started, you must be enrolled in two-factor authentication. Visit Enrolling in Two-Factor for step-by-step instructions on how to set up and use two-factor authentication, also known as "2FA".
  1. You'll need to verify your identity using the Microsoft Authenticator app, usually via a phone notification.

  2. Download and install FortiClient.

    • If you're not logged automatically, you'll need to use your UNF ID and password to access the page.
    • Note: Admin rights are required to install FortiClient on a UNF owned device. Contact the ITS HelpDesk 904-620-4357 for assistance.

  3. Install FortiClient using the setup wizard.

  4. Launch FortiClient once it's been installed.

    • Note: For instructions specific to your device and working conditions, please review one of the articles listed below "Further Reading".
In short, a VPN is a versatile tool that offers enhanced security, privacy, and convenience for a variety of online activities. Whether you're a member of faculty or staff at UNF, using a VPN can provide you with peace of mind and greater flexibility in how and where you complete work.

Why Use a VPN? 

Enhanced Security

Whether you're researching for a paper, accessing your UNF email, or just browsing the web, a VPN adds an extra layer of security. This is especially important when using public Wi-Fi networks, like those at airports or coffee shops, where your data could be more vulnerable to interception.

Remote Access to Campus Resources

For staff and faculty, a VPN can provide secure access to campus resources when working remotely. This means you can access restricted databases, internal websites, and other resources just as if you were on campus. An example of this could be accessing SharePoint from home. Note that a VPN connection is not necessary to read email because mail delivery through Outlook is already encrypted.

Online Privacy

A VPN masks your IP address, making your online actions virtually untraceable. That's why we recommend you connect to the University's VPN when accessing resources from a public network. This is particularly useful for maintaining privacy when using the internet for sensitive tasks or research. For example, this could mean keeping your academic research confidential.