Deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN with Microsoft Intune

Deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN with Microsoft IntuneWindows 10 Always On VPN is the replacement for Microsoft’s popular DirectAccess remote access solution. It provides the same seamless, transparent, always on remote connectivity as DirectAccess. Where DirectAccess relied heavily on classic on-premises infrastructure such as Active Directory and Group Policy, Always On VPN is infrastructure independent and is designed to be provisioned and managed using a Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform such as Microsoft Intune.

Intune and Always On VPN

Until recently, provisioning Windows 10 Always On VPN connections involved manually creating a ProfileXML and uploading to Intune using a custom profile. This has proven to be challenging for many, as the process is unintuitive and error prone.

A recent Intune update now allows administrators to create a basic Windows 10 Always On VPN deployment. Although it still has its limitations, it will go a long way to making the adoption of Always On VPN easier.

Prerequisites

Certificates must first be provisioned to all clients before deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN using Intune. In addition, if using a third-party VPN client, the VPN plug-in software must be installed prior to deploying the VPN profile.

Test VPN Connection

It is recommended that a test VPN connection be created on a client machine locally before deploying an Always On VPN profile using Intune. This allows the administrator to test connectivity and validate Extensible Authentication Protocol (EAP) settings. Once complete, run the following PowerShell commands to extract the EAP configuration settings to a file for later publishing with Intune.

$Vpn = Get-VpnConnection -Name [Test VPN connection name]
$Xml = $Vpn.EapConfigXmlStream.InnerXml | Out-File .\eapconfig.xml -Encoding ASCII

Deploying Always On VPN with Intune

Follow the steps below to deploy an Always On VPN connection using Intune.

Create a VPN Profile

  1. Open the Microsoft Intune management portal.
  2. Click Device configuration.
  3. Click Profiles.
  4. Click Create profile.

Deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN with Microsoft Intune

  1. Enter a name for the VPN profile.
  2. Enter a description (optional).
  3. From the Platform drop-down menu select Windows 10 and later.
  4. From the Profile type drop-down menu select VPN.
  5. In the Settings section click Configure.

Deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN with Microsoft Intune

Define VPN Profile Settings

  1. Click Base VPN.
  2. Enter a name for the connection.
  3. Enter a description and provide the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) of the VPN server. If it will be the default server select True and click Add.
  4. Enter a description and provide the FQDN for any additional VPN servers, as required.
  5. From the Connection type drop-down list choose the preferred connection type.
  6. In the Always On section click Enable.
  7. Select Enable to Remember credentials at each logon (optional).
  8. Click Select a certificate.
  9. Choose a client authentication certificate and click Ok.
  10. Paste the contents of eapconfig.xml (saved previously) in the EAP Xml field.
  11. Click Ok.

Deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN with Microsoft Intune

Define Additional Settings

You can also configure the following optional VPN settings using Intune.

  • Apps and Traffic Rules
  • Conditional Access
  • DNS Settings
  • Proxy
  • Split Tunneling

Deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN with Microsoft Intune

After configuring any required additional settings, click Create.

Assign VPN Profile

  1. Click Assignments.
  2. From the Assign to drop-down menu choose Selected Groups.
  3. Click Select groups to include.
  4. Choose an Azure Active Directory group to apply the VPN profile and click Select.
  5. Click Save.

Deploying Windows 10 Always On VPN with Microsoft Intune

Limitations

Although the ability to provision Always On VPN using Microsoft Intune without using a custom profile is welcome, it is not without its limitations. At the time of this writing, only Always On VPN user profiles can be configured. A device tunnel, which is optional, must be configured manually using a custom profile. In addition, the Intune user interface lacks the ability to define settings for the following parameters:

  • Exclusion routes
  • Name Resolution Policy Table (NRPT) exemptions
  • Lockdown mode
  • DNS registration
  • Trusted network detection
  • Custom IKEv2 cryptography policy

To make changes to the default settings for any of the above parameters, a ProfileXML must be created manually and provisioned with Intune using a custom policy.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Device Tunnel Step-by-Step Configuration using PowerShell

Windows 10 Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for IKEv2

Windows 10 Always On VPN and the Name Resolution Policy Table (NRPT)

Windows 10 Always On VPN Hands-On Training

What is the Difference Between DirectAccess and Always On VPN?

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration Guidance Now AvailableDirectAccess has been around for many years, and with Microsoft now moving in the direction of Always On VPN, I’m often asked “What’s the difference between DirectAccess and Always On VPN?” Fundamentally they both provide seamless and transparent, always on remote access. However, Always On VPN has a number of advantages over DirectAccess in terms of security, authentication and management, performance, and supportability.

Security

DirectAccess provides full network connectivity when a client is connected remotely. It lacks any native features to control access on a granular basis. It is possible to restrict access to internal resources by placing a firewall between the DirectAccess server and the LAN, but the policy would apply to all connected clients.

Windows 10 Always On VPN includes support for granular traffic filtering. Where DirectAccess provides access to all internal resources when connected, Always On VPN allows administrators to restrict client access to internal resources in a variety of ways. In addition, traffic filter policies can be applied on a per-user or group basis. For example, users in accounting can be granted access only to their department servers. The same could be done for HR, finance, IT, and others.

Authentication and Management

DirectAccess includes support for strong user authentication with smart cards and one-time password (OTP) solutions. However, there is no provision to grant access based on device configuration or health, as that feature was removed in Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10. In addition, DirectAccess requires that clients and servers be joined to a domain, as all configuration settings are managed using Active Directory group policy.

Windows 10 Always On VPN includes support for modern authentication and management, which results in better overall security. Always On VPN clients can be joined to an Azure Active Directory and conditional access can also be enabled. Modern authentication support using Azure MFA and Windows Hello for Business is also supported. Always On VPN is managed using Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions such as Microsoft Intune.

Performance

DirectAccess uses IPsec with IPv6, which must be encapsulated in TLS to be routed over the public IPv4 Internet. IPv6 traffic is then translated to IPv4 on the DirectAccess server. DirectAccess performance is often acceptable when clients have reliable, high quality Internet connections. However, if connection quality is fair to poor, the high protocol overhead of DirectAccess with its multiple layers of encapsulation and translation often yields poor performance.

The protocol of choice for Windows 10 Always On VPN deployments is IKEv2. It offers the best security and performance when compared to TLS-based protocols. In addition, Always On VPN does not rely exclusively on IPv6 as DirectAccess does. This reduces the many layers of encapsulation and eliminates the need for complex IPv6 transition and translation technologies, further improving performance over DirectAccess.

Supportability

DirectAccess is a Microsoft-proprietary solution that must be deployed using Windows Server and Active Directory. It also requires a Network Location Server (NLS) for clients to determine if they are inside or outside the network. NLS availability is crucial and ensuring that it is always reachable by internal clients can pose challenges, especially in very large organizations.

Windows 10 Always On VPN supporting infrastructure is much less complex than DirectAccess. There’s no requirement for a NLS, which means fewer servers to provision, manage, and monitor. In addition, Always On VPN is completely infrastructure independent and can be deployed using third-party VPN servers such as Cisco, Checkpoint, SonicWALL, Palo Alto, and more.

Summary

Windows 10 Always On VPN is the way of the future. It provides better overall security than DirectAccess, it performs better, and it is easier to manage and support.

Here’s a quick summary of some important aspects of VPN, DirectAccess, and Windows 10 Always On VPN.

Traditional VPN DirectAccess Always On VPN
Seamless and Transparent No Yes Yes
Automatic Connection Options None Always on Always on, app triggered
Protocol Support IPv4 and IPv6 IPv6 Only IPv4 and IPv6
Traffic Filtering No No Yes
Azure AD Integration No No Yes
Modern Management Yes No (group policy only) Yes (MDM)
Clients must be domain-joined? No Yes No
Requires Microsoft Infrastructure No Yes No
Supports Windows 7 Yes Yes Windows 10 only

Always On VPN Hands-On Training

If you are interested in learning more about Windows 10 Always On VPN, consider registering for one of my hands-on training classes. More details here.

Additional Resources

Always On VPN and the Future of Microsoft DirectAccess

5 Important Things DirectAccess Administrators Should Know about Windows 10 Always On VPN

3 Important Advantages of Windows 10 Always On VPN over DirectAccess

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration Guidance Now Available

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration Guidance Now AvailableWindows 10 Always On VPN hands-on training classes now forming. Details here.

When Always On VPN is configured for Windows 10, the VPN connection is established automatically when the user logs on to their device. This differs fundamentally from DirectAccess, where the connection is established by the machine, before the user logs on. This subtle but important difference has some important ramifications. For example, it means that a user cannot use Always On VPN until they’ve logged on to their device at least once while connected to the corporate network. DirectAccess doesn’t have this limitation, as a connection to an on-premises domain controller is available to authenticate a new user upon first logon.

Device Tunnel Support

To address this shortcoming with Always On VPN, and to provide better feature parity with DirectAccess, Microsoft introduced an update to Windows 10 in the recent Fall Creators update (v1709) that allows for the configuration of a device tunnel for Windows 10 Always On VPN. Once enabled, the device itself can automatically establish a secure remote connection before the user logs on. This enables scenarios such as device provisioning for new remote users without cached credentials. It also enables support for password reset using CTRL+ALT+DEL.

Manage Out

Device tunnel for Windows 10 Always On VPN also enables important manage out scenarios that DirectAccess administrators have come to rely upon. With a device tunnel configured, administrators can initiate connections to remote connected Always On VPN clients to provide remote management and support, without requiring a user to be logged on at the time.

Requirements

To support an Always On VPN device tunnel, the client must be running Windows 10 Enterprise or Education v1709 or later. The computer must be domain-joined and have a machine certificate installed. Device tunnel can only be configured using the built-in Windows 10 VPN client (no support for third-party clients) and the IKEv2 protocol must be used.

Caveat

When configuring a device tunnel, traffic filters can be implemented to restrict communication to only those internal resources required, such as domain controllers, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) servers. However, when traffic filters are used, no inbound traffic to the client is allowed. If manage out is required over the device tunnel, traffic filters cannot be configured. Microsoft expects to remove this limitation in a future update.

Provisioning and Documentation

Configuring and provisioning a Windows 10 Always On VPN device tunnel is similar to the process for the Always On VPN connection itself. A VPN profileXML file is created and then deployed via a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution such as Microsoft Intune. Optionally, the VPN profileXML can be deployed using SCCM or PowerShell. Additional information about Windows 10 Always On VPN device tunnel configuration, including a sample profileXML and PowerShell script, can be found here.

Additional Resources

Configure a VPN Device Tunnel in Windows 10

Always On VPN and the Future of DirectAccess

5 Things DirectAccess Administrators Should Know about Always On VPN

Always On VPN and the Future of Microsoft DirectAccess

Windows 10 Always On VPN hands-on training classes now forming. Details here.

Since the introduction of Windows Server 2012 in September of 2012, no new features or functionality have been added to DirectAccess. In Windows Server 2016, the only real change aside from bug fixes for DirectAccess is the removal of Network Access Protection (NAP) integration support.

Always On VPN and the Future of Microsoft DirectAccessFigure 1. Remote Access Setup wizard with NAP integration option in Windows Server 2012/R2.

Always On VPN and the Future of Microsoft DirectAccess

Figure 2. Remote Access Setup wizard without NAP integration option in Windows Server 2016.

DirectAccess Roadmap

It’s clear to see that Microsoft is no longer investing in DirectAccess, and in fact their field sales teams have been communicating this to customers for quite some time now. Microsoft has been actively encouraging organizations who are considering a DirectAccess solution to instead implement client-based VPN with Windows 10.

Always On VPN

New features introduced in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update allow IT administrators to configure automatic VPN connection profiles. This Always On VPN connection provides a DirectAccess-like experience using traditional remote access VPN protocols such as IKEv2, SSTP, and L2TP/IPsec. It comes with some additional benefits as well.

  • Conditional access and device compliance with system health checks
  • Windows Hello for Business and Azure multifactor authentication
  • Windows Information Protection (WIP) integration
  • Traffic filters to restrict VPN network access
  • Application-trigger VPN connections

DirectAccess Deprecated?

There has been rampant speculation that Microsoft plans to deprecate and retire DirectAccess. While that may in fact be true, Microsoft has yet to make a formal end-of-life announcement. There’s no reason DirectAccess and VPN couldn’t co-exist, so it’s not a certainty Microsoft will do this. However, there’s also no need to have multiple remote access solutions, and it is abundantly clear that the future for Microsoft remote access is Always On VPN and not DirectAccess.

Always On VPN and the Future of Microsoft DirectAccess

Source: https://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/38546.new-features-for-vpn-in-windows-10-and-windows-server-2016.aspx#Advanced_VPN_Connectivity

Always On VPN Advantages and Disadvantages

Windows 10 Always On VPN has some important advantages over DirectAccess. It has some crucial limitations as well.

Advantages

  • Always On VPN supports non-Enterprise Windows 10 client SKUs (Windows 10 Home and Professional)
  • Always On VPN includes support for granular network access control
  • Always On VPN can use both IPv4 and IPv6
  • Always On VPN is infrastructure independent. In addition to supporting Windows RRAS, any third-party network device can be used such as Cisco, Checkpoint, Juniper, Palo Alto, SonicWALL, Fortinet, Sophos, and many more

Disadvantages

  • Always On VPN works only with Windows 10. It is not supported for Windows 7
  • Always On VPN cannot be managed natively using Active Directory and group policy. It must be configured and managed using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), Microsoft Intune, or PowerShell

DirectAccess or Always On VPN?

Should you deploy DirectAccess today or implement Always On VPN with Windows 10 instead? That depends on a number of factors. It’s important to understand that DirectAccess is fully supported in Windows Server 2016 and will likely be for many years to come. If DirectAccess meets your needs today, you can deploy it with confidence that it will still have a long support life. If you have reservations about the future viability of DirectAccess, and if you meet all of the requirements to support Always On VPN with Windows 10, then perhaps that’s a better choice. If you’d like to discuss your remote access options in more detail, fill out the form below and I’ll get in touch with you.

Additional Resources

5 Things DirectAccess Administrators Should Know About Always On VPN

3 Important Advantages of Always On VPN over DirectAccess

NetMotion Mobility as an Alternative to DirectAccess

Windows 10 Always On VPN Hands-On Training Classes

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