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  • So What is Remote Access Anyway?

    Posted on June 3rd, 2009 Marieke Guy 3 comments

    In response to my blog post on 12 Ways Remote Workers can Prove they are Working Luck suggested:

    Why not to use remote access software? You access your office PC from home and work remotely. The monitor may be turned on and so your manager will see that you are really working.

    Hey, I’m willing to have a look at anything my readers suggest so here goes…

    To date my experience of remote access software has been limited to a brief experience I had a good few months back when our IT systems team used Microsoft remote assistance (for XP) to fix a problem with my PC. The process was completed in tandem using instructions in a word document and over the phone. I just had to ‘invite’ a systems person to help me, set up security measures i.e. a password and we were off and running. It was all pretty straightforward.

    Looking more closely into remote access isn’t so straightforward. I’m not really clear on the difference between remote access, remote desktop and remote assistance and Wikipedia isn’t really helping. So far I’ve come up with:

    • Remote administration – taking over someone’s desktop remotely
    • Remote access – the ability to get access to a computer or a network from a remote distance
    • Remote desktop – a software or operating service feature allowing graphical applications to be run remotely on a server, while being displayed locally.
    • Remote control – see remote access

    There seems to be a lot of overlap between the use of these terms. The main thing I’m concerned with here is how can you (or someone else) control your PC if you are a long way away and suddenly need to get in to it.

    As the PCStats guide puts it: “the ability to access files and information on your computer over the Internet is useful for work and play, as well as being just plain impressive in a geeky kind of way.”

    The guide talks about technologies that enable this kind of access which tend to fall into one of two categories:
    1) accessing files remotely
    2) accessing and controlling the desktop remotely

    File Access

    As a remote worker I often need to access files that are stored in a different location. I tend to use Virtual Private Network (VPN)to do this. I’ve talked about this more in my articles (for example Staying Connected: Technologies Supporting Remote Workers).

    Remote Access

    Remote access of your desktop brings your entire desktop over to the computer you are currently using. So it’s like using your computer as you would if you were sat in front of it.

    Ideally, the entire working environment of your computer is brought over the wire to wherever you are currently sitting, eliminating the need for synchronizing files between laptops and desktops. Whether you are working away from home or office, or simply allowing users to access their data from any web enabled location it doesn’t matter.” (PCStats guide)

    There are lots of commercial programmes that can do the job for you including Access Remote PC, Team viewer, 01 and remotely anywhere. A good list of remote desktop software and comparison of their features is available from Wikipedia.

    Obviously there are a few issues with remote access. The main one is security, it pays to make sure you are using a secure system. Also remote access of a computer is often a lot slower than if you were sat at your machine and there is sometimes a lag. The slower the connection (or the further away the computer you are trying to access is) the less responsive the mouse and key strokes. That said remote access is usually necessary for a particular task or in an urgent situation rather than a long-term solution so a time-delay is only a small issue.

    So that’s my brief introduction to remote access. There is a lot more to cover but I’ll save that for another day…