What is Remote Access?

The growing need for Remote Access

remote accessRemote access capabilities allow a computer or application service that is hosted on one network to be accessed by a computer from an external location. The computer that is being remotely accessed can be physically situated in an enterprise data center, in a remote branch office location, or be hosted by a third-party service provider. The actual accessing is accomplished via broadband Internet connections, dial-up modems or by logging in through a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection.

Remote access technology is crucial for a variety of reasons. It allows companies to securely deliver applications and support right to the user’s desktop regardless of where the user is physically located. Large companies with numerous branch office locations and geographically distributed operations need remote access support in order for workers at such locations to access the central enterprise network. Since the history of remote access, an increasing number of companies are expanding their telecommuting programs in order to gain further human resources from abroad. More Americans work out of home and branch office locations these days than any time previously. These telecommuters need on-demand access to their IT assets and applications regardless of where or how they may be logging in.

Remote access benefits not only the large multinational companies. Remote access is vital also in the context of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application delivery model. In a SaaS model, enterprise applications are hosted by a third-party service provider and then remotely accessed by enterprise users over the Internet or via dedicated lines. In most cases, users need little more than a Web browser to securely log into their hosted applications and services. A growing number of companies are adopting the SaaS model especially for office productivity and collaboration applications, so there’s a growing need for technologies that enable access to such applications from external locations.

The many flavors of Remote Access

Numerous remote access products are available in the market, each one focused on addressing a slightly different need or remote software use case. The most commonly known access technologies are those that are designed to let office workers securely access their corporate intranet or extranet from home and other remote locations, using either their work or personal computers. Other products are more consumer-focused and are designed to allow individuals to back-up and restore important data and files. Some let IT support staff remotely log into a user’s PC to provide support and maintenance services. In many cases, the tools are vital to rolling out new applications and security patches across the enterprise.

Most products available in the market today allow companies to access remote applications via the Web browser. Some of these products require small software agents to be installed on all client devices for security and authentication purposes. Other products are agent-less and only require users to log into a secure portal from where they enter their login credentials to access the applications and services they are entitled to. Companies that are more conscious about security can select and compare remote access software technologies that are designed to create a secure link between the user’s computer and the enterprise network.