The many uses of remote access services and products

Learn how remote access services and products enable essential business capabilities, including file sharing, remote support and maintenance, and face-to-face communications.

Remote access services and products are nothing new. It's been possible for years to connect to the office from...

home or on the road. What is new is that current technology has made it increasingly unnecessary to commute to an office.

Early remote access products made reading and sending email possible but not much else. Bandwidth was very limited, but today gigabit cable, fiber to the home and 4G cell technology coupled with available software now make it possible to perform from home many of the activities that used to require a trip to the office.

Sharing files via remote access services, products

Ability to access remote files -- ones residing in both the data center and the cloud -- is a basic necessity. Sharing files and collaborating on content is also crucial. Remote access products must synchronize file content across all platforms and databases so everyone views the same version. They must also provide links to very large files to eliminate the need to transfer content across the network and take up space on workstation storage.

Security is critical to every enterprise, but extra care must be taken when files reside on employee workstations. Key requirements include encryption and antivirus inspection, with authentication to ensure that access is granted only to those who should receive it. Document change tracking is also important to maintain a history of modifications, noting the content of the change, who made the change and when it was done. Vendors that provide these capabilities through their remote access services and products include Box, Citrix, Dropbox, Google and Microsoft.

Remote support and maintenance

Troubleshooting across the network saves travel time and expense. Remote support products make it possible for help desk staff to see exactly what is on a remote user's screen and control the remote system, which has proven much more efficient than asking users to describe what they see. These products can also be used for routine maintenance of remote systems and systems without a console. Tasks like installing or updating software can be performed without requiring remote user involvement.

Some remote support product vendors offer versions with limited capability at no cost. For example, Remote Utilities and RemotePC provide free editions with limited capabilities. Editions suitable for commercial use must be purchased. LogMeIn and TeamViewer offer free trials, but continuing use requires an annual license fee. Microsoft Windows Remote Desktop is included in every copy of Windows and requires no additional download or payment for these remote access services.

Face-to-face communication

File sharing is important, but it doesn't remove the need for verbal communication. Skype and FaceTime are sufficient for simple conversations between individuals or among a few people. For larger meetings, products such as GoToMeeting and Cisco WebEx support meetings between groups in multiple locations. These remote access services make it possible to present slides and jointly view and modify documents as if all participants were in the same room.

Remote access won't eliminate all commutes and in-person meetings. But this capability reduces the need for it, saving companies and employees time and money. And with fewer cars on the road carbon dioxide emissions can conceivably be cut.

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This was last published in August 2017

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