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Travel for Business Frequently - Want to Connect to the Office Globally?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2010 - 08:48 PM

One of the most popular technologies we setup for small and medium businesses is remote access. Remote access comes in several flavours and since webmail could be considered remote access – I will define remote access here as the ability to work on files, applications, email and print to the office, from a computer anywhere in the world.

Future articles will cover the related topic of terminal services/thin-client application management.

 

Trying to keep this concise

An article about remote access could go on for pages if we went into full detail, but that doesn’t seem logical for the intended audience. This article aims to outline the most common choices a business owner or manager would have when considering remote access.

The features of each approach will be briefly covered as well as the pros, cons and common implementation situations.

 

Types of Remote Access

     
  • VNC/Screen Sharing
  •  
  • RWW and RDP

 

Brands/Vendors

 

What can you do?

We are aiming to cover setups that allow:

     
  • File Access
  •  
  • Email
  •  
  • Printing
  •  
  • Applications

 

Straight up recommendation for SBS2003/2008 users

I am going to start by saying that if you have SBS2003 or SBS2008 – You should already have the technology available to enable RWW – one of the best remote experiences a small business can get. Forget reading to the end of this article.

The Remote Web Workplace that is part of the standard installation is by far the best option you have. If your server was setup correctly in the first place, you already have it – Ask your IT people for access.

 

Warning

If they say you don’t have it, or it will cost extra $$$ to setup – maybe consider calling someone else to assist you in the future. One example we have seen is a company asking for $16,000 + for new a Terminal Server.

We had the whole remote setup configured using only existing hardware and software within 2 hours. I can assure you that 2 hours of Network Engineer time is less than $16K – Suffice to say that we now manage that network completely.

 

As we were

Now – If you don’t have Small Business Server or you are interested in finding out more about Screen Sharing/VNC type remote access – Please, read on.

 

 

SBS2003/2008 based Remote Web Workplace

The built in Remote Web Workplace in Small Business Server 2003 and Small Business Server 2008 provides everything from our checklist:

     
  • File Access
  •  
  • Email
  •  
  • Printing
  •  
  • Applications

 

Think of RWW as a centralized and secure way for you/your IT people to allow users remote access to their own computers through their web-browser.

This is perfect for users that must use monolithic or FAT Client based software from outside the network. If you have ever tried to use MYOB over a VPN, you would know what we mean.

By connecting the user to their own machine through, what is essentially a routed Remote Desktop Protocol setup, they are free to work as if they were sitting right in front of the machine.

 

All shares, applications, printers and emails are available.

It is actually so simple; that once it is setup and users have the web address to log on – we have found no training is required. It is actually that easy.

There is only one problem that we have found… The user must use Internet Explorer on Windows for this to work. Not much of a con in reality, but if you are like us and have a mixed Linux, Mac OSX and Windows environment – It is worth mentioning and considering.

If you need help configuring SBS Remote Web Workplace, in most cases we can set it up remotely, so if you are anywhere in Australia – We should be able to help.

 

But Wait…

Ok, I can hear some of you saying: But can’t you do this without SBS?

Short answer No – Long answer Yes.

The fact is that most small businesses we work with or have audited have SBS as their main server, so that is why we chose to focus on that setup.

If you are a larger company and don’t use SBS, then you more than likely have a more sophisticated IT setup and this article isn’t designed for you.. Sorry.

If you are in that boat and would like to get some more information on your options, you can contact us – Just ask to speak to one of the network managers.

 

References:

SBS2008 info: http://blogs.technet.com/b/sbs/archive/2009/06/25/sbs-2008-introduction-to-remote-web-workplace.aspx

 

 

VNC/Screen Sharing

So what do you do if you don’t have a Server, let alone a SBS? Maybe you are a very small company, or just a “one-man-band” – We have a solution for you!

You may have already heard of VNC or products like TeamViewer and LogMeIn. If not, a brief explaination:

These products essentially setup a “screen server” on your computer that you, or other people, can connect to. This gives you screen, keyboard and mouse access to that machine.

This setup essentially gives you the same thing as the SBS/RWW setup that we just discussed. The one draw back is that it is not as “integrated” in a larger setup – But that is not our focus here.

VNC products like UltraVNC, TightVNC and RealVNC require more setup on the machine and network than TeamViewer or LogMeIn, but abstract you from any third party servers.

We often use UltraVNC on systems that are also setup for RWW as it allows us to “remote in” and assist the currently logged in user.

The links above to each of the products should provide a good starting point to determine the setup required for each one.

 

But I can make it really simple:

Zero IT Knowledge and want a “Just Works” solution? Go with LogMeIn

A bit Savvy and like to know how it is setup and secured? Go with Encrypted UltraVNC


If you need any support, have any questions or would like us to implement a secure VNC type setup – just drop us a line by phone or email. If you are in Australia we can setup any and all of these solutions remotely…. How you ask? Contact us and find out.