Remote Access Then and Now

If you have logged in to a videoconference where you viewed a presentation on someone else’s computer or participated in a virtual classroom where the instructor takes questions from students that are typed into the student’s computer and displayed on the instructor’s, you may think remote access is very modern. While it is true that today’s remote PC access interfaces are far more advanced than they were a few years ago, remote access is a decades-old concept.

When research facilities at universities and government labs began using dummy terminals tapped into a mainframe computer, computer users quickly realized they could use telephone lines to access and transfer the mainframe data, as well. The first modems were used in the 1950s to transfer data from government labs for air defense systems. The first commercial modem was produced in 1962 and the technology quickly developed, becoming faster as data transmission became more widely used and in demand. The 56k modem was invented in 1996, allowing high-speed transmission that exceeded the capacity of telephone lines. Multiplexing allowed information to be streamed in a more efficient way over phone lines within the frequency range available. Modems allowed remote administration of PCs and computer systems, but the cost for telephone line usage was high over long distances and the search for a cheaper, faster medium persisted.

The Search for Remote Access Efficiency

With the advent of broadband Internet, modem use became a less popular option. Broadband Internet’s “always on” connection made it possible to access the Internet at any time and made long-distance computer administration more affordable. Early remote access technology tools usually “listened” to dedicated ports and relied on relatively insecure passwords. This allowed hackers to monitor certain ports and intercept encrypted data. Consequently as criteria of remote access software, the next iteration of this technology involved creating a safe tunnel for data using a hardware firewall on the host side combined with a software client on the remote side. Encrypted data was passed through the tunnel and decrypted on the receiving end. This fairly sophisticated system requires a good deal of expertise to set up and can be cumbersome to maintain.

Remote Access Today

These days, web-based programs use broadband Internet to accomplish the benefits of remote access. Secure Internet sites send certificates letting anyone accessing the site verify its security. A company offering a remote access program allows a user to login to their secure site and establish a connection with a remote user who has an account set up there. The host logs in using a host computer and the secure connection is established. This type of service requires only a small download on each user’s end and is set up in a very short time frame, usually within a minute.

Secure, high-speed connections have enabled great advancement in remote PC access. Today, remote access use cases are wide-ranged including software support, PC troubleshooting, secure file transfer, software installation and upgrades, training sessions, collaborative team work sessions, virtual classes and many other applications requiring people and computers in different locations to interact. Secure remote access has changed the way business is conducted worldwide.