Remotely Accessing your PC
Remotely Accessing your PC
How and why is it so important to access your home pc remotely?
Let me start with , "Why?" first.
To answer why, let me pose a scenario to you. One I hope that most of us can relate to. At least it's the most common scenario that I find myself in.
You've concluded a business meeting and your client asks you, so what is our current balance on our account so that we can write you a check. Uhm .... I can't tell you. My quick books is on another system back at my office. And then you grumble because you've sent the client numerous statements detailing the balance due. blah blah blah ... but still if you could print out their statement there, you would walk away with a check.
So, if you simply had access to your computer back at your office you could remote in and answer their question.
I could go on with other scenarios, like the legal paperwork you left behind, or one driver you needed but left on the server at the office, or email that contained the number to a client you want to contact while you're out on the road.
All these scenarios have the same ending. Without remote access software you can't get back to the home office computer to look it up. I guess that's why we hire secretaries right? Oh wait, I'm self employed. =O
Now for, "How?"
There are several ways to remotely access your pc. Let's see ... websites, remote access software provided w/XP, and 3rd party remote access software. Ya that just about sums up the solutions.
In general all remote access software packages work the same. They allow you the user to load software onto your computers. The screen is captured off your home computer and passed to your laptop. The mouse and keyboard are captured from your laptop and sent back to your home computer. How this is done (the style and flavor) is a bit different per provider, but the basics are all the same.
This service can be extended to allow you to transfer files and print if needed. However, I usually don't find a need to print at my home computer. It's usually more important that I be able to print where I'm presently at.
So, for websites, there is Microsoft EZ Access, eFax.com, or the myriad of other websites that allow you to remotely access your home computer. These programs are designed to work through the providers web hosting service. Here you start the program on your home or office computer and walk away. At a business meeting you then use your laptop or tablet and log into the web hosting's site and start a session there. And it appears then that from that point you are working on your home computer.
Now if you don't want to use the Web Hosted services, you can use the software packages that allow direct access to your home pc. However, there's the catch - if you're home pc is behind a router, firewall, and/or uses a dynamic IP address .. this service requires a bit more information to make it work properly.
First, if you're using a router or firewall you need to open a port in them to allow the laptop computer to connect to the home computer. By design the router and firewall are designed to BLOCK these connection attempts. That is because this is how hackers connect to your computer.
Second, if you're using a standard DSL or Cable Internet connection, you will need to be able to find your home computer when you're on the road. This requires a program that will send your current IP address and seen by the internet to a location where you can grab it. Such a system is known as Dynamic IP Address Aliasing.
Dynamic IP Address Aliasing allows you to create a URL - ex. http://home.enetarch.net - that will always point to the home computers IP address. The IP Address is updated regularly by a program that sits on your computer and monitors the IP address for changed.
For more information about Dynamic Aliasing please refer to DynAlias.com.
But back to routers for a moment. Remember that port I said you had to open. You need to know which port your software uses. That brings us to the next part of this discussion.
For Windows XP users, there is a service known as Remote Desktop Service. This service in conjunction with Terminal Services Client allows you to remotely access your pc. To use this service you need to search Microsoft's Archives for which port to open on your router. Once that is done, you can use the Dynamic Alias you created to link into your home computer and use it as you would if you were out on the road.
However, before I leave Windows XP and Remote Access there is something you should know. When you use it, it will force the account running on your pc to LOG OUT! yes that's right, it will log you off your pc. The reason for this is that XP creates Virtual Work Spaces for which only one person can use the PC at a time. So you can either use it by sitting in front of it, or you can use it remotely, but never can you use both at the same time.
So, now you've just accessed your Quick Books remotely, and you're back at the hotel preparing to work on something else when you realize that a document you need isn't where it's supposed to be. However, since you've logged into your home pc and logged off when you left, the dynamic updater is no longer running, and the IP address to your home computer has changed ... and AARRRRRGGGG!!! you're locked out of your pc.
I could be wrong, but once again, Microsoft has found a way to lock you out of your home pc.
So, onto the next solution that doesn't.
If you choose to use a 3rd party product, the one that I recommend is FamaTech's Remote Admin. (Note: Mcafee and Norton HATE this program and remove it religiously) What's nice about Remote Admin is that it doesn't force the home computer to log out. Instead what it does is it allows you to interact with the home computer as if you were sitting at it. It's also nice for trainings - where I have to show a client how to do something remotely.
All the same rules apply as far as Locating your home computer, and making sure that a port is opened on your router to allow Remote Admin to access the home computer, as well as the Dynamic Updater needs to be running to keep your IP address current. However, at no time does Remote Admin ask you your home computer to log out.
Now for security's sake, Remote Admin does provide security options. They range from who can access your computer to what services they can use to access your computer with. For example, you can set it so that you can only view, or that you can only perform file transfers, or that you have full access, or that you can only interact with the desktop but that's it.
So ... again, there are 3 ways to access your pc remotely. All have pros and cons concerning how much is needed to prepare for access, how quick and direct you need the access to be, and how much security you need.