A woman using a laptop

What is remote connection: Devices, technology, and software that can be used for remote access

What is a remote connection? You may well have a good idea already. If you’ve ever logged in to your business’s network while away from the office, you’ve used a remote connection yourself.

Essentially, a remote connection allows you to access a device or network from any location. This means you don’t need to be chained to your desk to do your work; instead, you can edit and collaborate from anywhere in the world as well as on the go.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the benefits of remote connection as well as ways to facilitate it. 

The benefits of using a remote connection

As we touched on above, a remote connection allows an authorized individual to connect to a device or network even when physically away. This can enable team members to access your business network when working from home or allow your IT support team to resolve issues by accessing employees’ computers.

Unsurprisingly, remote connection has a number of benefits, which include the following:

Reduced costs

Remote access reduces the need for staff to be in one location to be productive—in theory, your team can work from anywhere and still collaborate. While most businesses in 2023 do retain some sort of office, others have fully embraced remote working. Remote connections are one of the tools enabling them to do this.

This creates obvious cost-saving possibilities. For example, does every employee need a permanent desk if they’re not going to be in the office full-time? In a hybrid working world, the answer is “probably not”. Instead, a hot-desk approach may suffice, enabling businesses to use smaller office spaces with lower rents and running costs.

Individuals don’t need to be in the same room to have a productive meeting or go into the office just to download a file. They don’t even necessarily have to bring their laptop in if something goes wrong with it. With the right technology, all this can be handled remotely, dramatically reducing travel expenses and downtime.

Increased security

Examples of authentication methods

Shifting to a remote working model doesn’t inherently enhance cybersecurity. In many ways, it can increase the risks, by introducing new, exploitable attack surfaces.

However, there’s now an extensive body of software, research, expertise, protocols, and tools available to mitigate this. Some remote access software like, for example, RealVNC’s offering, provides high-level, up-to-date security capabilities. 

Of course, no matter how good your tech, remote access should still be supported by a robust security-first culture, so make sure that everyone understands remote PC security protocols.

Flexible working

Remote access increases the flexibility of your business, too. The pandemic demonstrated this on a massive scale. If your team can connect remotely, it’s easier to keep working, no matter what life throws at you. Flexibility thus brings resilience.

Moreover, this flexibility makes your business a more desirable place to work. If you want your business to attract the top talent for your industry, you need to offer competitive terms. Flexible and positive remote working policies will continue to play an important role in this in the future.

For many employees, remote connection equals the option to work away from the office and commute less. Not being confined to office hours also allows people to fit their work more easily around other commitments, such as the school run.

Methods of remote access

It’s important to understand that remote access is not the same as a cloud-based solution. In cloud computing, an organization’s IT is hosted in the cloud—in other words, in an external, off-site environment that can be accessed via the Internet. Remote access, on the other hand, is about enabling access to an organization’s on-site IT infrastructure and environment.

There are various methods of facilitating this, which broadly fall into three categories.

Direct

Direct access is where a user connects to a device they want to control remotely. One example would be a home-working employee that desires direct access to their desktop computer in the office. In this scenario, the employee would directly control their desktop computer using a device at home (perhaps via a remote desktop experience).

Indirect

In contrast, indirect access goes through an intermediary server. Data, such as commands, files, or messages, is relayed between two or more devices via the intermediary.

VPN

Woman using a desktop computer. The screen has a VPN symbol.

A virtual private network (VPN) enables secure data exchange by creating a secure private connection between two devices. In simple terms, it builds a private tunnel between the two devices whereby all exchanged data is protected by a layer of encryption.

What is a remote device?

Essentially, a remote device is any device through which you remotely connect to another device. Remote devices are usually computers or mobile phones. Remote connection allows you to use a remote device (sometimes called the ‘client’) to access as well as control the files and applications on another device (sometimes known as the ‘host’).

Types of remote access technology

Remote access technology is any tool that supports remote access, connection, control, and working. There are many different types, but three of the most prominent are explained below.

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)

The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) was developed as part of the Windows operating system. It’s not a remote access solution in its own right, but it underpins the Remote Desktop Services (RDS) solution. As we’ll see below, RDS allows users to control a remote machine as if they’re sitting in front of it.

Virtual private network (VPN)

As we mentioned earlier, a VPN connection is sometimes understood as providing the remote user with a tunnel into the internal IT ecosystem of an organization. Users can then access tools and resources as they would in-house.

VPNs have been around for a while now and are understandably very popular. They offer security via encryption balance with flexibility. The result is that it’s easier to shift files between local and remote networks.

However, VPNs can be difficult to set up, sometimes requiring significant technical expertise. 

Furthermore, a VPN doesn’t give remote users access to the remote desktop of a specific device. Instead, users have access to the tools and resources that exist on a remote network more generally.

Secure remote access

Secure remote access provides users with direct control of a device that’s elsewhere, allowing them to interact with that device as if they’re sitting in front of it. At the same time, someone else literally sitting in front of that device would be able to watch the remote user’s actions.

With a VPN connection, a remote user connects to a network rather than a specific device. But with secure remote access (and RDP, as well), you can view and control a specific device.

This makes secure remote access a powerful business tool. For instance, remote workers can access their office computers even when they’re working from home, and IT support staff can troubleshoot an employee’s computer (or mobile, tablet, or other device) no matter where either individual is based. This supports flexibility and keeps employees productive.

Secure remote access connections are generally facilitated by specialist software. Remote access software takes care of the technical steps involved in remote connection, making it a convenient option for a wide range of users. 

Of course, for security reasons, it’s essential to keep any remote access software up to date and ensure all the latest patches are installed.

What are Remote Desktop Services?

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) are a set of components in the Microsoft Windows operating system. It’s underpinned by Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), mentioned above.

A core benefit of these components is that they allow users to connect with a desktop remotely from whatever physical device they’re using. Once connected, users can interact (remotely) with that desktop.

The experience is dictated by RDS system permissions, however, in theory, individuals can use the remote desktop (including access to all its software, files, and tools) as if it’s installed on the machine they’re sitting at.

RDS does, however, have limitations. One example of this is that it doesn’t support effective screen-sharing, which can reduce its business applications. Both collaboration and tech support, for example, benefit from screen-sharing technology.

Remote access software from RealVNC

RealVNC offers powerful remote access software, enabling users to remotely control computers. It’s a convincing alternative to both RDS and VPN.

RealVNC’s flagship product, RealVNC Connect, makes it easy for businesses to provide secure remote access and support from anywhere. The highly flexible and customizable system works across a wide range of platforms and operating systems, making it a convenient choice for any business. It also offers multiple security options, which is crucial in today’s digital-first world.

RealVNC Connect delivers high-quality, smooth, and responsive remote connections. You’ll feel like you’re right in front of the host device, especially with its remote desktop capabilities.

Additionally, RealVNC’s software makes screen-sharing collaboration across your teams easy.  For instance, it allows IT support staff to access an employee’s device and fix an issue while the employee watches.

FAQs about remote connection

What does a remote access server use for authorization?

Various methods are used for remote access server authorization. These can include passwords, two-factor authentication, PKI, and RADIUS.

Is remote access the same as a remote desktop?

No, these are different concepts. 

Remote access is a broader term and signifies the ability to connect to and control a remote device. 

Remote desktop, on the other hand, describes the specific experience of a user interacting with the graphical desktop environment of a particular remote device.

While remote desktops are a form of remote access, not all remote access solutions include a remote desktop experience.

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