Knowledge is freedom

VPN – Remote Access


Several years ago, the most common way to connect computers between multiple offices was by using a leased line. Leased lines, such as ISDN (integrated services digital network, 128 Kbps), are private network connections that a telecommunications company could lease to its customers. Leased lines provided a company with a way to expand its private network beyond its immediate geographic area. These connections form a single wide-area network (WAN) for the business. Though leased lines are reliable and secure, the leases are expensive, with costs rising as the distance between offices increases.  Today, the Internet is more accessible than ever before, and Internet service providers (ISPs) continue to develop faster and more reliable services at lower costs than leased lines. To take advantage of this, most users have replaced leased lines with new technologies such as broadband utilise Internet connections without sacrificing performance and security. Businesses started by establishing intranets, which are private internal networks designed for use only by company employees.   Intranets enabled distant colleagues to work together through technologies such as desktop sharing. By adding a VPN, a business can extend all its intranet’s resources to employees working from remote offices or their homes.

Due to the popularity of the personal computer home users found themselves with more than one computer and started to create workgroups, these workgroups were formally very similar systems example all Unix or all Windows as cross platform was an issue.  It is not so today as the home network is now simpler to use but actually a lot more complex than the earlier workgroups as most people have cross-platform and multiple devices.  Apple Mac desktops / laptops, Linux and other Unix derivatives in game consoles, phones and routers which include a host of technology e.g. firewall and VPN.

Most modern routers offer VPN and are very simple to use or you may choose to go for the more popular software option such as gotomypc, webex and Logmein.  The features of these applications are also built-in all modern operating systems example Mac IChat and Windows RDP / Windows Remote Assistance.


What is the difference between Remote Desktop Connection and Windows Remote Assistance?

Even though they have similar names and involve connecting to a remote computer, Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance are used for different things.

Use Remote Desktop to get access to one computer from another remotely. For example, you can use Remote Desktop to connect to your work computer from home. You will have access to all of your programs, files, and network resources, as if you were sitting in front of your computer at work. While you are connected, the remote computer screen will appear to be blank to anyone at the remote location who sees it.

Use Remote Assistance to give or receive assistance remotely. For example, a friend or a technical support person can get access to your computer to help you with a computer problem or show you how to do something. You can help someone else the same way. In either case, both you and the other person see the same computer screen. If you decide to share control of your computer with your helper, you will both be able to control the mouse pointer.

Important note: Remote desktop is only included in the Professional, Business, or Ultimate versions of Windows. Home editions do not have remote desktop.


iChat has an underused feature called Screen Sharing. It allows people to take control of your machine and fix things from another location. One person sends a request, you accept, they remotely control your system. If it we’re possible to rig the machine to automatically accept an invitation you could essentially remote desktop without any networking hassle.


Sometimes it’s nice to connect to your computer remotely. Hardcore Linux users typically see SSH as their remote connection tool of choice, but if you prefer graphics to the command line don’t worry: Linux provides an option for you as well.

Using Linux Remote Desktop you can have total control over your desktop from any other computer: Linux, Mac or Windows. You’ll see what’s on that screen and be able to move the mouse and even type. Best of all, the feature is built into the operating system by default, so you won’t have to install a thing.  The VNC protocol is installed by default on all Linux systems also Mac with screen sharing.  To connect simply run a VNC viewer client

VNC servers are available however these are normally run on Windows systems as the VNC protocol is built-in within Linux and Mac.  Some of the VNC products offer additional functionality, this may differ from varienty selected.  VNC issues you must over come firewalls or other networking issues i.e NAT, this is why software tools like gotomypc,   Webex and Logmein have become very popular as they tunnel through using the already open standard ports.  As a generalisation this is from one system to another, if you wish to connect one site to another you should use a VPN connecting both routers.