Remote Access Technologies 101

by | Mar 14, 2012 | Cloud, Mobile Technology

In the age of the mobile workforce, having secure, well-managed access to business data and processes is critical for success. Remote access technologies give small business employees the freedom and flexibility to work outside the confines of the office, without limited access to their desktop, company servers, tech support or collaboration tools.

This post provides an overview on the types of remote access technologies available for small businesses, as well as discussion points and considerations when mapping out your remote access strategy.

What Types of Remote Access Are Available?

Web-Access—Cloud-based platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technologies can virtually host your business programs and applications, which offers employees access via any secure, standard web browser. Web-based remote access offers small businesses the easiest way to integrate virtualized integration and configuration into everyday processes.

  • Typical Applications: Email, customer relationship managers (CRMs), and collaboration tools.
  • Examples: SalesForce or Google Apps (sign in for access to documents, calendar, email, etc.)

Remote Desktop ControlEnable individuals to use one device (such as a computer, tablet or smartphone) to interact with a remote computer as if the user were sitting in front of it.

  • Typical Applications: Display a remote computer’s desktop, run native programs, access hard drive and server files, and work with documents.
  • Examples: GoToMyPC, LogMeIn and pcAnywhere.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)Establish a secure tunnel between remote devices and your company’s network. VPNs are the most secure of remote access technologies.

  • Typical Applications: Remote access to printers, databases, files, and multiple organizational servers and networks.
  • Examples: Citrix and Cisco offer VPN solutions, which are typically set up and customized for individual businesses by an IT provider.

Remote Access Selection Criteria and Considerations

As Mathew McKenzie argues in “Inside Remote Access,” remote access software covers a range of products, services, licenses and pricing models. Talking through these details and more with your trusted IT provider beforehand can save time and headaches later on.

Specifically, work closely with your IT provider to discuss details of the following:

  • Applications—Determine which programs, networks, files and databases employees need remote access to, as different applications lend themselves better to different types of remote access. For example, a flat, database-driven application—such as Quickbooks and Microsoft Access—perform better through a remote desktop application compared to a VPN.
  • Security Requirements—Remote access products create windows into your network, which if left unguarded can leave you open to attack. Review existing security infrastructure, including firewalls and anti-virus software, to ensure all the necessary security is in place.
  • End-User Segmentation—The remote access technology you choose should allow for end-user segmentation because your marketing intern should not have the same access to files and programs as your CFO.
  • Control—One of the greatest remote access security threats companies face is a disgruntled employee. Your selection must offer the ability to immediately cut off an employee’s access if they are suspected of tampering.
  • Employee Training—To ensure proper use and the ongoing safety of your data, work with an IT consultant to put training sessions in place that continually educate employees on new technologies and proper use. This   safeguards remote access programs, processes and information from prying eyes or hackers. To start, provide employees with training on using passwords that are difficult to crack.

When integrating any new technology into your small business infrastructure, the most important thing you should do is talk to your IT provider. Take the time to make sure remote access technologies will integrate seamlessly with your existing infrastructure, and take steps to upgrade where necessary.

By going through this process up front, you’ll be better positioned to maximize the impact these technologies can have on your business.

What are your challenges with remote access technologies? Please share them with us in the comments, or contact us at 216-255-6300.