Types of remote access software

There are different ways to remote into a system or computer. This guide will help you find the right one for your business and use case.

If you have a physical office, you may have computers and systems that you need to access from home. Remote access software allows you to connect to a system, computer, or network from over the internet. Since that access is exposed to the internet, it is important to make sure only the right people can connect to it.

Tip: If your business doesn’t have a physical office that hosts systems and only uses cloud-based tools, you don’t need to worry about remote access software. Read our other tips about securing your business and your other cloud tools.

The guide below can help you understand which remote access solution can work for you and your team. Each solution has their benefits and downsides. It is important to pick a solution that works for how your business operates.

Types of remote access

Before you pick a solution, it is important to know what your options are. We’ve briefly described them below, provided a table of the advantages and disadvantages, and added a summary of each option.

Types of remote access:

  • virtual private network
  • SaaS remote desktop tools
  • common remote service ports

Virtual private network

Virtual private network (VPN) software creates a tunnel between your remote computer and your office network. Setting up a VPN requires you to either configure a server on your office network to run the VPN software or enable VPN features on your office router. Once connected to the VPN, you can access the same files and systems as if you were sitting in your office.

You might have heard of VPN software in your personal life, like when it comes to using overseas streaming services. While this is the same technology, it is not used in the same way. VPN software for your business connects you to your private, office network. Where VPN software you use in your personal life might allow you to appear to be located geographically somewhere else.

Summary — VPNs

VPNs are a good option for businesses who have a small to medium-sized workforce who need access to multiple files and systems on the office network. It is ideal for a business who needs their staff to be ‘virtually working’ in the office, with access to all the same tools and systems they have when they are sitting at their desk.

When going with a VPN, it is important to check:

  • which VPN protocols that are used and if they have any known security issues
  • if they support MFA and other strong authentication controls
  • what access and security logs you could configure and review, and
  • if they can support your performance needs.

This is not a good option for businesses who use a lot of third party vendors or contractors who don’t need access to the entire network. It also might be challenging to implement a correctly sized VPN if you have a large workforce.

SaaS remote desktop tools

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) remote desktop tools create a connection between your remote computer and a single computer at the office. Setting this up requires you to download remote desktop software to the computer you need remote access to, and authenticating to it via software or a browser on your remote computer.

Software-as-a-service products, like Team Viewer and LogMeIn, are considered remote desktop software.

Summary — using SaaS remote desktop tools

Remote desktop software is a good option when you have a limited number of staff, third party vendors, or contractors who need access to a single computer.

When going with remote desktop software, it is important to check:

  • if the software is still supported and patched by the vendor
  • if they support MFA and other strong authentication controls, and
  • if audit and security event logs can be enabled.

This is not a good option for businesses who need a remote working solution for a large number of staff.

Common remote service ports

Similar to remote desktop software, common remote services can allow a user remote access to one computer. Instead of using proprietary vendor protocols, remote services used widely used protocols and services that are often built into the operating system. Such services include RDP, VNC, or SSH.

Summary — using remote service ports

Exposing remote access services directly to users over the internet carries a large security risk because they need to be configured well in order to be secure. Instead of opening these remote access services to the internet, you could consider enabling VPN features on your office router so your technical staff could securely RDP from a non-public location.

When setting up remote access services, it is important to check:

  • how MFA can be configured for your setup,
  • how audit and security event logging can be configured,
  • if the software used supports strong encryption, and
  • if the software used is still being patched by the vendor.

This is not a good option for businesses who need a remote working solution for many staff or staff who are not in IT operations.

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