"How can I connect to my work network whilst I’m out of the office?” is a question we hear more & more (especially with all the current snow). With Wi-Fi and mobile access, people can get online anywhere these days, at home, on trains, at cafés.
Here, Business Support Team Leader Pete takes a look at the options for working away from work to provide us with some answer.
Let's start off with what’s known as a VPN ("Virtual Private Network"), which essentially fools your machine into thinking it’s in the office. To create a VPN connection, you need a "host" machine to connect to. This is usually a server, such as Windows Server 2008, although a computer running Windows XP or Windows 7 can also be setup as host machines. To find out how, take a look here: Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008
Another option is to use a free service called LogMeIn. LogMeIn allows you to remotely control your computer in the office from any computer that has a web browser, or even from an iPhone! You'll need to keep your office computer switched on, but if you do forget to leave it on LogMeIn has a handy remote "Switch On" feature. Setup is very simple and takes a matter of minutes, just visit the LogMeIn website for more details.
The last option is called RDP ("Remote Desktop Protocol"). This works in a very similar way to LogMeIn, ie you can take control of your machine from any computer. However there is a bit of setup involved with this whichi ncludies opening ports on your firewall or router.
To setup your office machine for RDP, you need to switch on "Remote Access" by clicking on Start -> Control Panel -> System -> Remote tab and then select the box that says "Allow remote connections from computers running any version of Remote Desktop" and click on "OK". Next, you must open port 3389 on your router and forward this to the IP Address or name of your computer. Your router manual will tell you how to do this. After your office machine has been setup, you simply launch the RDP client on your home machine and type in the external name or IP address of your network, login and voila! You are connected to your office computer. It does pose a potential security risk, as you are opening a port on your firewall, which could be exploited by a hacker.
To make things a little more straightforward, here’s a list of the pros and cons.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
- Use your machine the same as you would in the office
- Difficult to setup
- Slow to transfer data
- Very quick and simple to setup
- Access from any machine with a web browser
- Can slow down your office computer a little bit
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)
- Secure(ish) - dependant on setup
- Difficult to setup
- Need to remember the internet address for the office
- Ports open on firewall could be susceptible to attack
In my opinion, the simplest, cheapest and easiest solution would be to use LogMeIn.
If you need any assistance with any of these options or have your own thoughts on remote support, then just drop me a line on 0845 8990099, I'd love to hear from you.