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Access Your Computer From Anywhere

You are working on a report or spreadsheet and put it on a USB stick to take home. Later on, you open up the file only to realize that there was one other file you needed as well, but forgot to put it on the stick before you left the office.

Carrying files around on portable storage devices is simple to do, but opens up some thorny issues.

What if the stick is left somewhere, or what if the right files aren’t on it? If important work gets done on a stick, how does it get backed up, or shared with other people who want access to the latest version of a document?

There are numerous other ways to access work data from home, such as using a VPN (virtual private network), portable computer file synchronization technologies like Windows offline files, or targeted approaches such as web access just for e-mail.

However, remote PC screen-sharing technologies are also a good way to go, and have some specific advantages other methods do not.

The basic idea is to access your work computer’s screen, just as you left it. Using either a program on your home PC or a web browser, you can log into a system that allows you to see a picture of your work screen just you left it. All windows are shown exactly as they were at the office, and you are working directly on your work computer. It’s just that the mouse and keyboard commands are coming from your home PC, instead of from the mouse and keyboard connected to the work computer.

As you are directly on your office PC, all network resources and files are available just as they are at the office, and there is no need to even close applications at work before leaving. All the e-mail windows open to various messages, web browser windows showing various sites, and so on, are available just as before. Files are stored on their usual server locations and so any changes made are accessible to others and backed up as usual. All the usual programs and server services available at the office are also available when accessing an office computer using screen sharing.

Screen sharing is also a good choice when using slower network connections as it is very frugal with bandwidth. Only images of the screen are being transferred, not any actual files in their entirety. It’s also secure in that no sensitive files are being copied onto USB sticks or onto your home PC. When you close the screen sharing connection, there are no potentially sensitive files left on the PC at home. The remote screen images were never saved to disk anywhere, and were encrypted while in transit over the network. When the remote access program is closed, there is nothing left to clean up.

A downside, though, is as you are using your work computer directly, it needs to be left on whenever you intend to remotely access it, instead of turning it off at the end of the day. There are system policies to put computers into sleep mode and then only wake them up when needed that can help with power consumption concerns.

Specific ways to implement remote desktop sharing include TeamViewer (free for charities to use, at teamviewer.com) or LogMeIn, which also has a free version at logmein.com. Microsoft server software includes specific remote desktop gateways (such as Windows Small Business Server’s Remote Web Workplace or Windows Server’s Remote Desktop Gateway), designed to securely provide remote desktop sharing on an organization-wide basis.
 

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