Giving people in your company remote access to their email, company files and other systems - no matter where they are – allows them to work more efficiently and flexibly
What’s more, it can be surprisingly easy (and cheap!) to set up.
Remote access means allowing people to access your business computer systems even when not directly connected to your company network. For instance:
Remote access makes it easier for people to work effectively when away from your premises. For instance, if you allow remote access to your main systems, staff working from home are less likely to interrupt people in the office to ask them to send files over.
Similarly, if you have salespeople on the road, they can download the latest pricing information before an important meeting.
Decide what you want to use remote access for before determining which method of access to offer. And remember: remote access isn’t limited to laptops. Mobile phones and tablet computers can send and receive email, and many can perform much more advanced functions like viewing and editing documents.
In general, you need a network server to control permission levels and effectively allow remote access in your business.
If you don’t have a server in your company, cloud computing services provide one of the easiest routes to remote access. For example, you could use an online collaboration system to share files, and an email service like Microsoft Exchange Online to allow access to company email from any location.
In fact, these online services are becoming increasingly popular, particularly for smaller businesses that are unable to justify investing in their own server. Tools like Dropbox and Box are excellent ways to store files online, where authorised people in your business can view them.
Cloud computing services are generally very well-suited to being accessed from anywhere. Indeed, if your business ranks mobile working as a high priority, it’s worth consulting your IT supplier to understand how cloud services can help.
You can also make use of remote desktop connection software. This works like a remote control for your main computer, so you can log in to it over the internet and access your usual programs, files and settings.
Some versions of Microsoft Windows come with Windows Remote Desktop as standard. The latest version, Windows 8, allows you to connect to your main office computer from a tablet computer, so you can use all your usual software.
The simplest types of remote access open up specific, isolated parts of your systems:
If your business is largely based in a single location and your staff tend not to work while they’re out and about, these options are good for occasional use.
A more secure way to provide remote access to all your company systems is with a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN creates a secure link between your network and your employee’s computer across the internet.
All the information sent between the two is scrambled, so nobody can intercept it, and you can access all the resources on your company network just as if you were in the office.
Setting up a secure VPN can be a complicated task that may require an investment in extra hardware and software. Because a VPN allows wide access to your company systems, you need to take adequate security precautions too.
Indeed, because allowing any level of remote access increases the security risk to your business, it’s important you evaluate the potential threats and take steps to keep your data safe.