02 Feb 2014

Rethink Remote Access

Wams, Inc.Articles  

People everywhere around the world got a real shock last week when remote access specialist LogMeIn got rid of its free alternative and asked users to man up and pay for the paid version.

While the majority of professional users remain undeterred, those using LogMeIn for ad-hoc purposes found themselves asking if there were comparable alternatives to consider.

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be “no”.

LogMeIn’s proprietary protocol with network address translation (NAT) traversal does a good job of getting through firewalls on Internet connected systems using secure sockets layer (SSL) encrypted connections. Mobile clients are available for iOS and Android devices, as is remote printing support and file sharing. LogMeIn thus became an easy choice for people needing a quick solution, often for ad-hoc scenarios where a permanent virtual private network (VPN) would either be too much work or not possible.

However, most professionals in the legal, medical, and financial industries saw the security risks involved with allowing users to use LogMeIn and never even allowed it in the first place.

So what are some other options for remote access?

TeamViewer

TeamViewer is easy to install, seems to be able to get through even the tightest corporate firewalls and has all the features required for full remote access, including audio, file transfers, remote printing as well as meetings and collaboration.

Like LogMeIn, TeamViewer works well over residential broadband and overall, is very easy to live with.

So why isn’t everyone using TeamViewer? The price. TeamViewer is free for non-commercial use, but business customers are expected to fork out holy moly amounts ranging from $849 for the cheapest version and going to $3200 for the three-session corporate variant. Needless to say, that kind of pricing puts TeamViewer out of reach for many small business operators.

TeamViewer is a good product that would be even better if the commercial pricing was dropped to sensible levels. If you don’t need it for business purposes, by all means, TeamViewer is the way to go to replace LogMeIn Free.

Remote Desktop Connection and Virtual Network Computing

If you can open up firewall ports and run new-ish versions of Windows on both network ends, Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) may be a workable solution.

The Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) built into Windows – there’s a free downloadable one for Mac OS X too – offer a good, feature-rich remote access experience with sound. RDC adjusts itself to the bandwidth available, cutting down on desktop eye candy and colour depth to match the capacity of the network connection. Generally it works fine, even over your average residential broadband service.

On the downside, there is a fair bit more to tweak with RDC. You may need to consider firewall reconfiguration, client settings, maybe even tunnelling all the traffic over a VPN so you don’t need to sleep with one eye on the intrusion detection system and user authentication.

Either way, RDC is ahead of Apple’s remote access solution which, while updated for the latest Mavericks operating system, misses out on important features such as sound and NAT pass-through.

Apple has decided to go with the open source Virtual Network Computing or VNC for building its remote access solution, and it comes with pros and cons.

Pros include several clients and servers (free and paid) with decent feature sets. However, the features lag behind other remote access solutions, with several deficiencies in the areas of graphics and audio handling.

Again, you’ll be looking at securing the connection, firewall configuration and other tweaks that’ll likely eat into any savings you thought you were banking from avoiding paying for a LogMeIn license.

Remote Access Via Cloud

Most professionals will agree that the only way to truly gain remote access securely and with good speed, graphics and function is to go to the cloud.

With WAMS Cloud Connect, all of your data, applications, backups, files, folders, etc. are all stored off-site in a secure data center. All you need to access all of it is an Internet connection. Once you log in from anywhere and on any device (Mac, PC, tablet, smartphone), a virtual desktop is displayed with your entire “computer” sitting right in front of you.

Think of this scenario…

10:28 AM Attorney, Ms. Sue Me, logs into her PC in the office and opens a matter in ProLaw for a case she’s working on and makes a few additions.

12:43 AM Ms. Me is in a meeting with the client and is presenting the same file to them on her iPad. The client has a change, which Ms. Me emails to the paralegal to do. Paralegal is at lunch, but pops it up on her Android phone as she’s waiting for her salad and makes the change.

2:22 PM Ms. Me submits her time and billing for the month on her iPhone while sipping a coffee at a coffee shop and sends it remotely to print at the administrator’s printer. Within minutes, the administrator receives the time entries and processes the invoices for the client.

2:56 PM Ms. Me’s iPhone dies in the middle of a Candy Crush break and she hasn’t finished her all of time entries. Ms. Me gets extremely frustrated and calls the WAMS live-answer help desk. “Easy Peasy,” they say. “Just log in anywhere with any device.”

3:41 PM Ms. Me is at her home office on her Mac, logs into her cloud, and the exact same desktop with the exact same screen that she was working on at the coffee shop on her phone pops up, and she finishes her time in minutes.

If you’re curious about Cloud Computing for your firm, please visit our WAMS Cloud Connect page on our website or get a free Cloud Readiness Assessment by filling out the form at the top right of this page!