Friday, January 22, 2016

Remote Access to your Workstation at Home

Remote Access to your Computer.

There are a few times when you might find you need to access your computer remotely:

  • You're on vacation or visiting family and realize you need to get at something back home, such as photos or a video you took of something.
  • You're the 'computer savvy' one in the family, and a relative needs some help but you don't want to or can't drive over to help them out.
  • You're in the office and realize you forgot the most current draft on your computer at home!
  • You're in a meeting and realize you forgot a file or two for your presentation!

For me, the most common thing for me is I'm the IT-Guy in the family, so I get requests for help with this, that or something else.  Sometimes it's something simple as: How do I do XYZ?  But, it's a 15 minute drive over a 5 minute fix, then a 15 minute drive back.  Now some things, you can walk folks through on the phone.  Some things, it's just easier to show them or if it's something they'll likely never do again, do it for them, (like turn on automatic updates.)

I've found that sometimes, being able to do some of these things remotely helps me feel more productive, because I can reclaim the windshield time for something else.  One of the key things of being able to do this is not to have to deal with any of the network configuration typically necessary to allow remote access to work.  As a result, there are a few products you can use on each end, that use a service in the middle to make the connection.

When it comes to PC's, I've become fond of the free utility: Remote Utilities.

Remote Utilities can be used in a couple of ways.  If there's a computer you need to remote into semi-regularly, you can set it up with a Host Connection, then with the Client software, you can connect to it from anywhere you have a working internet connection.  If you need to use it for a one-off instance, there's a Agent that you can have the remote party download and then read you the InternetID and Password over the phone and let you get in to remote-control the system.

While Remote Utilities supports PC, Android and iOS, it doesn't (yet) support OS X.  And you can use it for a number of Host Mode computers before you have to go beyond the free version.

When it comes to Mac's (and PC's), I will typically rely on: TeamViewer.

TeamViewer works much like Remote Utilities in that you can setup a full version in Host Mode to let you access it any time as long as you have an internet connection with an ID and Password, additionally, they have the option of having a one-off use with their QuickSupport app you can have your remote end download and run, then read off the ID and Password for you to get in and help them out.

This is also free for personal use, but the business version quickly gets more pricey.  It does, however, support PC's, Macs, Linux, ChromeOS, Android, iOS, Windows App and Blackberry.

For a paid application, I would suggest: Parallels Access.

Parallels Access is a reasonably priced software as a service for remote-access.  Like it's free-for-personal-use cousins listed above, it lets you get into a computer setup in Host Mode, but isn't as focused on the one-off use case.  It costs as little as $19.99 a year to get started on up to 5 Host Mode computers.

Parallels Access supports Mac, PC, iOS and Android and is focused mainly on getting back to your Mac or PC from your mobile device.

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