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Microsoft: Office 2013 Conflicts with Some VPNs

Microsoft this week noted a potential limitation that may affect some organizations' ability to use the Office 2013 client to retrieve documents housed on SharePoint Server.

Organizations with some virtual private network (VPN) configurations will need to establish that the Office 2013 client has Internet access in order to retrieve document files from SharePoint Server, according to Microsoft's announcement. The announcement added that "some customers have already complained about this issue and the product group has been informed of the design limitations (but no hotfix is currently in the works, a hotfix may not be possible [as] this looks to be a big change)."

Office 2013 depends on a Network Location Awareness (NLA) technology to create a network profile, as well as a Network Connection Status Indicator (NCSI) technology that verifies Internet connectivity via a specific Microsoft Web site (http://www.msftncsi.com). The NLS instigates a DNS lookup service to assure that there's an Internet connection and it secondarily connects to Microsoft's NCSI Web site to retrieve a text file. That two-step process is how Microsoft verifies an Internet connection. The two technologies have been around since Microsoft's Windows Vista days.  

It turns out that Office 2013 requires this Internet connection verification process in order to retrieve documents from SharePoint Server. Some VPNs apparently limit such behavior.

The announcement noted that there is a "possible workaround."

"It is possible to setup a local NCIS server (Network Connection Status Indicator) on your LAN that will respond to the Office Clients requests and allow the Office feature to work."

Doing that requires customizing a registry key or configuring the settings in Group Policy, according to this Microsoft blog post.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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