Remote work

Technical options for remotely accessing your computer, and keeping your data at hand

Whether you want to work remotely for convenience (avoiding long commutes) or for necessity (you are a salesman on the move), at some point you will need to organise access to your data and systems, which is stored at your computer at work. There are several options for organising remote work.

First option: Remotely access to your computer at work/home.

On the move, from home, off working hours (other cases) you need to connect/access your computer at work or home where all your data related to your work is stored. Depending on the situation you might use a netbook or a hand-held device, or a full-sized computer belonging to somebody else (in the library).

You have a couple of alternatives here:

Operating systems have a build-in facility for remote connection. Remote Desktop Services, is one of the components of Microsoft Windows (both server and client versions) that allows a user to access applications and data on a remote computer over a network and the Internet.

There are alternative software packages that allow you to do the same as windows remote desktop, and you can find them by searching Google or

With windows remote desktop connection, you do not have to pay anything, but should have enough technical skills to configure the remote connection initially, and do it securely. If any problems occur, you are also left alone for troubleshooting.

There are services on the Internet that solve the above problems by making remote access programs more usable, taking care of user security and authentication.

The most popular services we are aware of are PCanyware and Gotomyps. To setup a remote access you need to register with them, download a small program and install it on your (host) PC. Then you can access your computer from anywhere using an Internet browser.

Second option: keep your data with you.

If you just need to access some files, consider copying all your critical data onto a removable storage (usb flash card). You might have plenty of files, and a large amount of data to move, but there are some clever programs that help you to synchronise data, thus speeding up the process by avoiding copying files that have not been changed. The one I use is called GoodSync. A few years back, I have tried a few programs of that sort, and GoodSync appeared to be the fastest and most reliable.

There are additional benefits of using this approach: you can work offline, and you maintain a backup copy of all your important data.

You can also sync files with a remotely located server. You will have to have an Internet access for that, but you do not have to carry files with you in that case. It also might be a pretty reliable option as an “off-site” backup/data storage. This is a paid for option, but it usually does not cost much, and most of providers offer a free basic account. There are two types of services: one more oriented to data synchronisation, and allows to browse your data via browser, the same way your brows your local folders. Dropbox, and are good examples of that.

Another type of services is more oriented towards backups – for example mozy.

I carry all my data on a usb flash drive, and sync to a remote server/service. So if my notebook is stolen together with a flash drive, at least I will be able to recover my data.

Whether you have your data on your computer, or on a removable storage, you have to think about security. Operating systems offer some basic protection, in form of data encryption, but it is better to use a specialised software for this. Truecrypt is a very popular option.

There is also an option for “hardware encryption”, where your files are encrypted within the storage, rather then by a software. This option is more expensive, but easier to use, and normally faster.

You will have your data with you, but not all the software and systems that you can access at work. Although some software packages can run from USB drives, there are only a few of them.

This moves us to a third option:

Third option: use online services and software to do your work.

If you are Internet-connected consider using online/social collaboration software – keep your stuff there instead of a hard-drive. There are many specific, and general (Google Apps) services, that can help you to do more or less everything that can be done by using a desktop software. There’s always an option of building your own online collaboration software. That’s where Magic Web Solutions can help.

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