VPNs could become both cheaper and easier to use, NCP Engineering has claimed as it launched a client for Windows PCs, aimed at remote and mobile users.

The company said the product was capable of working with a broad range of gateways over almost any connection.

NCP marketing director Hanns Brandner acknowledged that free or bundled VPN clients still undercut his company's software on price - called Seremo, it costs £47 per PC - but claimed that none of them could match it on features or usability.

Seremo's features include IPSec with AES or 3DES encryption, XAUTH extended user authentication, hardware token support, and a personal firewall.

Brandner added that it has been designed to be easy to deploy and use. "The NCP client interacts with the opposite end and offers a wizard to automate the configuration of encryption parameters," he said.

"If the VPN gateway also supports this feature, only the username and password settings have to be configured - even the IP-address can be handled within the IKE [Internet key exchange] protocol."

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A graphic display provides information on the state of all connections, plus detailed log information, he said. Domain log-in remains as it was in the local network, plus the client sets up a VPN tunnel to the central VPN gateway before logging into the domain controller, so the log-in data is already encrypted for secure transmission.

There are many other VPN clients available, but most are either tied to the same vendor's gateway, or have somewhat limited functionality - the Microsoft IPsec client in Windows 2000 and XP can only initiate tunnels using L2TP for example, said Brandner.

In addition, NCP said Seremo works with any transport, including high-latency links such as GPRS, which can cause problems for some VPN clients.

It also undercuts full-function VPN clients such as SafeNets' SoftRemote on price - the latter costs almost twice as much, at $149 (£78) per PC.

Brandner said that Nuremberg-based NCP was pricing aggressively in order to gain users outside its current central European heartland.

He added that Seremo runs on Windows XP, 2000 and NT, and can be bought from resellers or online. A 30-day trial version can be downloaded here.