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Remote Connections

Options for Working Remotely

Many of us have been working at home since March and are starting to evaluate the next steps. For some, that means continued working from home, and for others, it may mean a mix of returning to the office and from home. Given that work from home will be part of the mix for the foreseeable future, we thought we would review the options for a successful setup. Below we review four main scenarios for working remotely.

Cloud Services

Many of our clients have made this move. By hosting all company resources, the end-user experience becomes the same regardless of location. The first category, hosted services, includes hosted email (Microsoft 365, Gmail), file storage, and services such as QuickBooks Online. The next group is servers in the cloud running industry-specific applications. Under this scenario, most expenses are monthly subscriptions, and the only equipment to purchase is laptops, desktops, and printers.

Cost ($$ to $$$$) The move to Cloud Services is straightforward, and the price is reasonable if email, file access, and hosted services are needed. When specific applications move to the cloud, both the cost of the migration and monthly expense increase. If your needs are limited or your servers are aging, the cloud may be the best option.

User Experience ***** Cloud Services have the significant benefit of giving your staff the same experience. Whether they are in the office, at home, or on vacation, they will see the same screen. If you have an internet connection, you will be all set. Each user needs a desktop or laptop.

Security **** Cloud Services have built-in security features that typically include encryption and multifactor authentication. Note that many can be tied to your computer network/domain login, too.

Bottom Line on Cloud ServicesCloud Services is usually the best option for the long term. It is pretty straightforward for most of us as long as you don’t have complicated, customized application requirements.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN provides a secure connection to your business network, essentially creating an encrypted private tunnel to your corporate network. Many organizations already have one set up on their existing firewall.

Cost ($$) VPNs are inexpensive and typically straightforward to set up with your IT provider if you have a business-class firewall.

User Experience ** While using a VPN, all the computing happens on the remote/home PC, so response time can be slow as data travels back and forth.

Security ** Firewall VPNs can present a security risk if not set up correctly or if the endpoint (computer) is not also secured. Firewalls require security updates, patches, and firmware upgrades to ensure they are not vulnerable to targeting.

Bottom Line on VPNs – VPNs are great if carefully managed by professionals and are not being used company-wide as THE work-from-home solution.

Remote Desktop

This option creates a secure connection to a desktop on a server at your office or a data center. You can think of it as opening up another computer on your computer. The computing occurs on the server, so the user’s computer does not have to be very powerful.

Cost ($$$$$) Remote Desktop is expensive both in terms of configuration and licensing. However, the computers that you buy for your staff do not have to be pricey.

User Experience **** Users have the same experience that they would have at your office with excellent response time.

Security *** Remote Desktop is a secure solution if set up correctly.

Bottom Line on Remote Desktop – Bottom Line on Remote Desktop – Remote Desktop is great for large organizations that can spread the infrastructure cost across many employees.

Control

There are many versions of this service –  we recommend ConnectWise Control. It works by providing a secure connection to the user’s PC at work to access all the resources in their office.

Cost ($) A low monthly fee plus a small amount of setup. However, each user needs a computer at home and one in the office.

User Experience **** Everything is familiar as users access their desktops, but you are dependent on internet speed for responsiveness.

Security *** Set up correctly; this is a secure solution.

Bottom Line on Control – Control is an excellent option for occasional access.

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