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What Is Remote Access? Definition and Best Software List

Remote work is on the rise in today’s digital era. Even in cases where employees live and work within the same city, many opt for regular work from home hours. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace survey, 43% of employees worked remotely in some capacity in 2016, a 39% increase from 2012. On a global scale, IWG found 70% of employees work remotely at least one day a week.

But what is remote access, and how do employees and tech gurus use it to become more efficient and effective? The simple remote access definition is this: any application empowering users to remotely access another computer, no matter how far away it is.

Both paid and free remote access software are available today. The platform you decide to use depends on the size of your organization and your unique business goals. My personal favorite is SolarWinds® Dameware® Remote Everywhere (DRE). This robust remote access software offers a host of user-friendly features designed to grow with your business and facilitate troubleshooting.

Feel free to jump ahead to a specific topic:

  1. Use Cases for Remote Access Software
    What Is Remote Desktop Access?
    What Is Unattended Remote Access?
    What Is Remote Access Used For?
  2. How to Gain Remote Access
  3. Remote Access Security Best Practices
  4. What to Look For in Remote Access Software
  5. Best Remote Access Software
    SolarWinds Dameware Remote Everywhere
    SolarWinds Dameware Remote Support
    Zoho Assist
  6. Best Free Remote Desktop Software
    Chrome Remote Desktop
    Microsoft Remote Desktop
    Remote Utilities
  7. Remote Access Simplified

Use Cases for Remote Access Software

The most common remote access definition is any type of software granting access to a remote computer. But this definition only scratches the surface of everything remote access encompasses. The purpose and function of remote access varies greatly, and it depends on the user and the specific platform in use. Remote access tools can be on demand or unattended, and they may connect users to remote resources or provide access to the host computer from other locations.

What is remote access for


improve productivity


Drive collaboration


Provide technical support

What Is Remote Desktop Access

Remote access enables users to connect to resources in other locations. Remote desktop access tools take this further, allowing users to control the host computer from any location via the internet.

What Is Unattended Remote Access?

With unattended remote access, as opposed to spontaneous or on-demand remote access, remote agents are installed on all remote devices or servers. This allows users to access these devices at any time without needing to wait for the host device to accept the connection.

What Is Remote Access Used For?

Here are a few of the most common applications for remote access:

  • Improve Productivity From Afar: Individual users can leverage remote desktop access to view and edit their files as easily as if they were sitting in their normal cubicle or corner office. This helps keep productivity up when an employee is traveling or when they need to work from home. Programs like Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive are a few of the most common platforms empowering employees to access and edit their documents outside of the local area network.
  • Drive Collaboration Among Dispersed Teams: A company may be headquartered in New York but have satellite offices in Zurich, Raleigh, or Chicago. Keeping teams aligned when they’re separated by miles, mountains, and oceans is no easy task. This is where remote access comes into play. Remote access helps facilitate peer-to-peer relationships via screen sharing for training demonstrations and large team meetings. Many employees feel as if they’re in the same room as their cross-continental colleagues.
  • Provide Technical Support: This is perhaps the most common application of remote access among IT technicians. Leveraging robust remote access software, IT administrators and their teams are empowered to directly control the workstations—including the desktop, mouse, keyboard, and everything else—of their employees, no matter where they are. When an issue arises, whether it’s an application failing to open or a document refusing to download, IT teams can easily connect to user workstations to troubleshoot the problem.

How to Gain Remote Access

Remote access has evolved tremendously over the last decade. To gain remote access in today’s technology-driven landscape, remote access software must be deployed over the network on a remote access server or installed on a local workstation known as the “client.” The workstation you remotely access is the “server” in the popular client–server relationship. Here are a few of the most common ways to achieve this remote connection:

  • Virtual Private Network (VPN): VPNs allow employees working remotely to route their online activity through a secure server capable of connecting them directly to their company’s network. These systems encrypt data sent over the network to ensure it’s unreadable, even to those who can gain access to it.
  • Virtual Network Computing (VNC): VNC is a form of graphical screen sharing used to view and control the desktop of another computer. This is accomplished using the Remote Framebuffer protocol over a network connection. A viewer is installed on the client and connected to the server (the remote workstation). VNC is typically conducted over a VPN.
  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP): RDP is a proprietary Microsoft protocol used to achieve a remote connection, but there are also versions for MacOS, Linux, and other operating systems. In some cases, software companies may even have their own proprietary protocols. RDP allows the server to listen on TCP port 3389 and UDP port 3389 and approves a connection once a request is made.
  • Internet Proxy Servers: Internet proxy servers are used to facilitate a connection outside of a corporate network or firewall. Though this option is instrumental when it comes to creating outside connections, a remote access connection is usually made over a secure VPN.

Remote Access Security Best Practices

Since we’ve defined it, it’s time to discuss the best practices associated with remote access software. While each of the best practices listed below is unique, they all have one thing in common: a focus on security.

Modern-day remote access is highly convenient and effective, but it’s not risk-free. Cybercrimes are on the rise. Today’s IT administrators must be more diligent than ever before to keep cunning hackers at bay and protect exposed remote connections. Whether you’re educating your employees on remote access for work or coaching your technicians on remote access for tech support, here are a few security best practices to keep top of mind:

  • Put Endpoint Protection Into Play: Endpoint security involves securing the servers, workstations, and devices you use to connect to networks. Patch updates, antivirus software, and firewalls are a few examples of endpoint security in action.
  • Find a Secure Connection: While free and highly convenient, public Wi-Fi carries a whole slew of cybersecurity risks. Invisible attackers will often sit on a public Wi-Fi network and eavesdrop on passing traffic, waiting to snatch passwords or other sensitive data. Warn employees of the risks involved with securing sensitive work documents over public Wi-Fi.
  • Avoid Using Personal Devices for Work: Personal laptops, tablets, and mobile devices are often not equipped with the same patch updates and antivirus software as company-owned devices. Employees who use their personal devices to work remotely can put company networks in jeopardy, as they’re more likely to expose their systems to malware and other cybersecurity threats. If employees must use their own devices, it’s up to IT technicians to develop a BYOD (or bring-your-own-device) policy outlining strict security measures.
  • Develop Complex Passwords: Passwords for network logins should always be at least eight characters (preferably closer to 15), contain a healthy mix of characters (numbers, symbols, varying cases, etc.), and never contain parts of the username/login or personal information. IT technicians must not only adhere to these best practices but enforce them among all members of their staff.
  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication: One-factor authentication is no longer a reliable way to protect against security breaches. Multi-factor authentication is now a must. It doesn’t matter which authentication practices you implement; as long as you have a two-step process in place, you drastically improve your protection against hackers. Sophisticated remote access software will often rely on smart card login, in which a user must have possession of a physical smart card as well as a private PIN. This simple step goes a long way toward protecting your entire network.
  • Leverage Password Protection Systems: Once you’ve designed complex, secure network passwords, you must store them in a safe space. Vault-protected password management solutions are one example of a storage tool many IT professionals turn to for compliance-grade security.

What to Look For in Remote Access Software

Cloud-based programs like Dropbox and Google Drive have empowered employees to gain access to files and folders from any location and at any time of day. But these programs don’t provide IT technicians with the level of control they need to remotely troubleshoot end-user issues and quickly resolve the IT tickets flooding their help desk. Fortunately, sophisticated remote access software has evolved to take care of this.

With so much available remote access software, it can be hard to find the right one for your unique business needs and goals. I recommend looking for a product capable of checking the following boxes:

  • Secure Connections: A secure remote connection is critical when it comes to keeping your IT infrastructure out of harm’s way. Robust remote access software will leverage two-factor authentication (like smart card login) and encryption methods like RSA and RC4 to keep your data safe and secure.
  • Comprehensive Troubleshooting: Being able to dig in and remotely resolve end-user issues requires software capable of running local batch scripts in a system shell setting, taking screenshots and recordings during active sessions, and restarting and shutting down a PC with ease.
  • Consistent Communication: Troubleshooting an IT issue often involves consistent communication with the end user to find out exactly what went wrong, when it happened, and how the problem arose in the first place. Look for tools offering live chat, videoconferencing, and technician screen sharing to facilitate communication with end users.
  • Help Desk Integration: Regardless of the size of your organization, help desk tickets are an inevitable reality. Remote access software helps streamline the ticketing process by establishing a parent-child relationship with your help desk. This makes it easier to initiate remote assistance directly from a ticket, save remote session metadata, and keep end users up-to-date on the status of their tickets.
  • Active Directory Integration: In certain cases, remote access tools can even integrate with Active Directory. This is a capability I’ve come to consider crucial, as it helps centralize and manage IT sign-ins. Active Directory integration makes it easier to reset passwords for end users; add, delete, and update Active Directory users, groups, and OUs; and manage multiple Active Directory domains from a unified console.
  • Scalability: On-premises remote control software allows IT administrators to perform mass deployments and integrate with an unlimited number of end users. The right tool will grow with your business, helping your team provide comprehensive support to tens, hundreds, or thousands of employees.

Source: Date: 08.12.2020г.


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