Do you need to use your office computer from home, the road, or another off-site location?  Remote access provides a time-saving and secure way to work when you can’t be in the office.  Here are three common remote access options along with pros and cons of each.

VPN Remote Access

This solution creates a VPN (Virtual Private Network) over the Internet from the remote user to the office network. The connection is a secure, encrypted connection between the endpoints.

  • Requirements: Both locations must have high speed, stable Internet connections. The host must have a VPN server (many firewalls have this feature) and a static IP. The remote user must have VPN client software installed on his or her computer.
  • Pro: This method provides a secure, encrypted way to copy files to and from the network server.
  • Cons: Slow speed and lack of document version control because opening files directly across the VPN is not recommended.

One-to-One Remote Control

This solution builds on VPN Remote Access. The VPN adds the remote user to the corporate network and One-to-One Remote Control runs through the VPN tunnel. The remote computer “takes over” a computer located in the company network.

  • Requirements:  Each remote user needs to access a separate computer on the network.  This could be a user remoting from a laptop offsite to his or her own office computer.  After the VPN is in place, an additional software layer, such as NetOp, VNC, or PCAnywhere, is needed for remote control.  Or, if your needs are straight-forward, the Windows built-in utility Remote Desktop works well. If you don’t have a VPN and don’t want to create a VPN, a service like GoToMyPC tracks both ends (host and remote) of the connection, facilitates security and navigates firewalls.
  • Pros: Because only screen refreshes, keyboard, and mouse clicks are transmitted over the VPN connection, this is a fast, efficient method to access the company network. This solution is a great option for workers with both a desktop and a laptop.
  • Cons: Printing to a remote printer can be an issue. If the remote user wishes to print on a device that is with the user at a remote location, that printer must be a LAN attached printer. The other option is to create a PDF file, transfer the file locally and print locally.

Windows Remote Desktop Services (formerly Terminal Server)

Use this solution when the one-to-one ratio for remote control is not feasible. Terminal Server delivers Windows desktops from a centralized location and users can log in from any location either in the office or remotely.

  • Requirements:  Terminal Server and licensing. Microsoft requires a Windows Remote Desktop Services Client Access License for each user. In addition, your application software must be properly licensed (e.g. for Microsoft Office, you must use Open licensing). External users connect to the network using a VPN. Depending on your application load and hardware requirements, a Terminal Server can support 15 to 20 users comfortably and up to 50 users if the demand is light.
  • Pros:  Users log in to an individualized, profile-based desktop. Like one-to-one remote control, only screen refreshes, keyboard, and mouse clicks are transmitted over the VPN, so this is a fast and efficient way to access the corporate network.
  • Cons: Costs for hardware and licensing.