Working from Home for the Holidays

Your Guide to the Best Remote Work Options Aegis Has to Offer

Remote work has increased in popularity massively since 2019, owing to both pandemic-driven necessity and advances in technology that allow users to stay productive from anywhere. 

Remote access (sometimes called remote desktop) allows a user to connect ­­to their organization from any location, at any time. This connection puts needed files and data at employees’ fingertips even when their desk is miles away. 

Having remote access set up can also help ensure business continuity. If the unexpected strikes the company – or even just an individual employee – being able to offer the capacity to work from home or a hotel can make a tremendous difference.

If you’re looking to get started with remote connections, you might be wondering what to expect. Aegis has been helping remote employees stay productive since well before the pandemic, no matter if they’re in their cubicle or in their kitchen. Here are the primary setup options we offer:

  • Windows VPN (Virtual Private Network) – for users on a company device who need access to shared drives or files.
  •  Windows RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) – for users on a company device who need access to a specific onsite workstation.
  • Third-Party RDP – for users who are connecting on a personal device, whether in or out of the office.

We’ve broken down the basics of how these three methods work below.

 

Windows VPN

What it is: A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, creates a portal for a user to connect to their work environment from anywhere, whether in a coffeehouse a few blocks away from the office or on the other side of the world.

Who should use it: Employees who use the same device both in the workplace and remotely can join their office network using a VPN, with minimal setup required. (Someone with two separate devices will need to use a VPN in combination with an RDP – more on that in the RDP section!) 

How it works: VPN functions similarly to a bridge between the remote user’s home internet and their in-person workplace. A user first connects to their local internet. Then, the user logs in to a VPN, and an encrypted connection links their local computer to a network gateway on their work network. This network gateway proceeds to route all the user’s web traffic through the onsite internet. Once connected, the remote employee can access everything in the work environment as if they were sitting at their desk: network accounts, shared drives, server-hosted software, printers, and (with the help of RDP) even other computers on the network.

The set-up: Windows VPN is included with all copies of Windows Pro. To ensure that the connection is stable and secure, the initial configuration should be completed by an IT specialist, who can make sure that the user will be able to access all needed files and programs.

Advantages: 
  • VPNs are the fastest method of remote access, since they simply process inbound and outbound traffic.
  • VPNs are also extremely secure, shielding transmitted data from the remote user’s local connection. 
  • A variety of threat management and traffic monitoring configurations are available.
Disadvantages: 
  • A computer connected to a VPN is the same device. Only the IP address is different. A slow computer on a VPN will still run slowly.
  • Since a VPN is just a gateway, any requisite software not installed on the local device cannot be made available through VPN alone. Therefore, the success of a VPN depends on proper set-up; for example, if an organization fails to share access to important files in advance, they may be unavailable to the user. Using a VPN in tandem with an RDP (described below) can mitigate much of this.
  • Finally, a work VPN cannot be used on a personal device running Windows Home. It is only compatible with Windows Pro. 

 

Windows RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol)

What it is: RDP, or Remote Desktop Protocol, is a remote connection method to access a specific computer. 

Who should use it: Windows RDP is ideal for remote employees who need data or software installed on an office computer. While a VPN can connect a user to their office network, RDP can plug them directly into their onsite workstation. 

RDP is also the method which Aegis and other IT professionals use to help fix our clients’ devices remotely.

How it works: An RDP connection allows an authorized user to work on a device that is miles away as if the user were sitting right in front of it. A user establishes a secure RDP connection to the target device. The user may then send input (from their local mouse and keyboard) to the remote device. The remote device transmits its onscreen output to the user’s local monitor, treating it as the remote device’s own screen. Typically, we set up Windows RDP in tandem with a VPN to ensure that all devices are on the same network.

The set-up: The Windows RDP comes pre-installed with Windows, and many Windows programs such as Microsoft Azure use it for their default connection. Generally, we set up RDP to work together with a VPN to ensure maximum availability for the remote user.

Advantages:
  • With RDP, a remote user can have all the computing ability, data, and software of a significantly more powerful computer at their fingertips. 
  • RDP also enables a user to read and edit files on a specific device that may not be available across an entire network.
  • RDP can make specialized software available to a user without requiring the purchase of an additional license.
Disadvantages: 
  • RDP may run more slowly than a normal desktop, because every single user action must be processed twice: both by the local computer and by the remote desktop itself. 
  • An RDP connection cannot be used for video conferencing, as the inputs are limited to mouse and keyboard.
  • RDP is sometimes a tool of fraudsters: conniving cybercriminals will pose as helpful IT experts offering to “fix” a virus on a victim’s computer. Combining RDP with a VPN cuts down on this risk significantly. However, it is still important to stay safe – never share RDP credentials outside your organization, and always verify the identity of anyone offering “help.”

 

Third-Party RDP

an icon one of two computers connectingWhat it is: Similar to the Windows default RDP, a third-party RDP creates a remote connection to a specific computer. 

Who should use it: Since Windows RDP only works on Windows Pro, a third-party RDP is necessary for users working from home under a BYOD (bring your own device) policy. 

How it works: Like the default Windows RDP, a third-party RDP securely connects a local device to a specific, individual computer in the user’s office. However, in contrast to Windows RDP, a third-party RDP may operate without network access, expanding its compatibility with all devices. 

The setup: Third-party RDPs offer increased flexibility, but this comes with a trade-off: greater threat vulnerability. Therefore, it is very wise to only install a third-party RDP that has been approved by your cybersecurity specialists. The market is always changing, but we stay abreast of it, making sure our clients can choose safe, affordable RDPs.

Advantages: 
  • Third-party RDPs can connect any device on any standard operating system, from Windows Home to MacOS, making WFH compatible with Apple devices.
  • Numerous options for third-party RDPs can include a wide range of potential features to choose from.
  • Third-party RDPs can be less intrusive, sparing users the discomfort of allowing their workplace to manage aspects of a personal device.
Disadvantages: 
  • Third-party RDPs suffer all the same challenges as Windows default RDP. The connection might be slower because of the sheer amount of processing involved. Social engineers may attempt to gain unauthorized access to the desktop via deceit. Be careful, and only allow access from trusted and verified contacts.
  • Demand and availability for independent RDPs inevitably fluctuates, taking prices along for the ride. Despite the name, “forever free” is never a guarantee. 
  • Many times, we’ve seen clients’ third-party RDP of choice suddenly price itself out of a reasonable budget. When this happens, we’re always happy to assist in the selection and setup of an affordable alternative.

As your Harrisburg and Lancaster Work From Home specialists, Aegis can make remote connection set-up a breeze for your organization. Ready to get started with remote connections, or amp up your WFH security? Contact us below today!