Ask Dr. Intranet

FRAMINGHAM (04/03/2000) - We have a California branch office that is connected to headquarters via a virtual private network (VPN). We want to give the office access to our intranet, but because it is on a different subnet we are having problems. Clients on the remote network get a socket error that reads "host name lookup for 'infoserv' failed." Infoserv is our intranet server.

The error message indicates that the Domain Name System server used by the clients on the remote network doesn't have an IP address for your intranet server 'infoserv' in its DNS tables. This happens if the remote client is getting DNS services from the Internet. To fix this you should provide your own DNS services for your own internal IP address space. The "MoreInfo" button, available via the "winpcfg" or "ntipcfg" command, can tell you what DNS server a Windows client is using. On Unix clients, the "nslookup" command will show you what the default DNS server is. You can run your own DNS server anywhere you want inside your network as long as the VPN routing works. To find out if your VPN is working well enough to route IP packets between your remote LANs, try using the intranet server's IP address rather than the host name 'infoserv' to connect from the remote client. If that works, all you need is name service, which can be provided in a pinch using just a static 'hosts' file on your client machines until you get a DNS server running.

Blass is a network architect for Sprint Paranet in Houston. You can reach him at dr.intranet@ paranet.com.

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