Remote Access

Remote access technology allows users to connect to office computing resources while out of the office. Often, this may be to access e-mail only via web mail using a browser, but can comprise of access to all office applications and data. Such solutions could be accessed from home, hotels, other offices, Internet cafes, or even from a laptop connected to a mobile phone at a park bench. There are two main technical solutions to provide remote access: remote node and remote control.
This technology can also be used for connecting a small remote office to a main office at low cost, or can also be used for a form of disaster recovery. For example, if a business has two offices and one office becomes inaccessible, those users could continue working from home to the remote access server in the second office. No “hot site” office needs to be arranged.

Remote Node

This solution simply extends the office network to the remote PC. The remote PC becomes a node on the main network. This can be accomplished by dialling up directly to a server in the office, or more often these days, by installing Virtual Private Network (VPN) software on the remote PC so that it can connect from any Internet connection.

Pros

* Seamless integration for laptops; users have the same computing environment.

* Easy to transfer files between the remote computer and the office.

* Implementation costs can be cheaper than a remote control solution.

* The user can work on the PC without a connection to the office.

Cons

* Software identical to that on the office PCs is required on the remote PC in order to read corporate data. For example, to log onto an SAP application server, the SAP client must reside on the PC.

* VPN software must be installed, maintained, and supported on all remote PCs.

* The two previous requirements greatly increase IT resource requirements in order to support all remote PCs. This can be a more expensive solution than remote control, in the long run.

* Because VPN and identical office software must reside on the PC, this solution would not enable access from an Internet cafe or at a non-configured PC at another business site.

* Database applications may experience slow performance, especially on dial-up connections, as the data needs to be transferred across the remote connection to the PC.

Remote Control

This is a very popular solution these days. A remote control server is installed at the office and configured with the business standard applications. This server would typically be Windows 2000 or 2003 Terminal Server, with or without Citrix software.

Pros

* Because the user remotely controls a server in the office, no data is transferred; therefore the performance is almost as fast as being in the office, even via dial-up.

* Users can access office applications from any PC in the world (including an Internet cafe) as long as it is connected to the Internet and has a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape.

* No other software is required on the remote PC so ongoing support costs for these PCs are almost nil.

Cons

* This can be a significantly more expensive solution to implement than a remote node solution.

* An Internet connection is required in order to do any work. For example, it would be inaccessible from a laptop on an airplane.

* It may be that the users desktop environment (colours, application preferences, etc.) are different than that on the normal office PC.