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RE: access office computer from home

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Ken Peoples <lvtakp(--nospam--at)> wrote
>now have the option of accessing my work computer from home for late
>at night work, but we do not have any kind of system set up to do this.
>We only have about 15 people on computers and would probably only have
>three or four accessing from home.  Can any of you recommend how to go
>about this - or where to look?

You have a couple of options.  Given your situation, I'd probably opt for #2
but would also take a strong look at #3 using NT's built-in VPN.

1) Remote Control - e.g. Symantec's PC Anywhere.  This works by an outside
computer calling in and controlling an at-work workstation.  The at-work
computer does all of the work with your home PC simply acting as an input
device ala the old mainframe terminals.  You need a modem on each of the
workstations in your office.  This tends to be slow because it takes a lot
of memory to display your screen.  It takes a bit to get used to the delayed
response time.  Your mouse doesn't move immediately.  The home mouse moves;
sends the info to the work computer which then sends back the screen to the
home PC. However, this is a great solution for tech support people to be
able to fix anyone's computer.  I've seen it used for business commuters.
Quite frankly, their are better alternatives.

Advantages: Flexibility - from any machine to any machine (that has the
software, of course).  Security - Because this is a point-to-point
connection, the info is not being passed through other computers.  Someone
has to know what telephone number to call.

Disadvantages: Cost - modems for ALL machines; a copy of the software for
all of the machines. Also, if you have to call long-distance to work.
Slow/delayed response time. Security - PC Anywhere has some good security
but most people turn it off because it is a pain to use and by default it is
off. Lots of support: the IS dept needs to keep Users x 2 modems and
software working, some of which will be on home machines. 

2) Direct Dial-in - In this case, the at-work computer is acting as a
pass-through/peer-to-peer connection.  This is much faster than remote
control.  The home PC is acting as a limited computer on the system.  Most
of the major operating systems, NT server & workstation, Unix, Linux; have a
daemon or process to do this already included.  You just have to install it
and set it up.

Advantages: Security - Same as remote control with the added advantage of
using the OS's, hopefully rigorous, login security.  Cheap on the small
scale: You basically need enough modems and dedicated phone lines in the
office for the number of callers that you have.  If you have 3 callers, you
need 3 modems.  However, modems can be quite cheap, say $50 a piece.

Disadvantages: slower than VPN/can't take advantage of high speed
connections such as cable modems, ISDN & DSL.  Home machines need to be
configured properly. Lots of support: the IS dept needs to keep Users x 2
modems and software working, some of which will be on home machines. Cost -
if you have to call long-distance to work.

3) VPN (Virtual Private Network) - Your home computer becomes just another
computer on the network at work with all of the privileges/rights and
responsibilities.  In this case, the home PC calls the local internet
dial-in, makes a secure connection with the server at work and acts just
like another other PC you would have at work.  This is the fastest
connection because it can use the high-speed internet connections.  NT
server has a VPN built-in.  Many companies prefer to go to a 3rd party
software and hardware. 

Advantages: Speed; Long-term maintenance; Flexibility - your home PC/laptop
can connect from anywhere where their is an Internet connection;  Cost -
Software is free if you use the NT built-in stuff; no long distance bills;
very scaleable; very cost effective on the larger scale.  Ease of use - your
computer thinks it is right on the LAN at work.  Security - Heavy duty
security built-in, including firewalls, etc. & all communications are
encrypted, typically with a high level algorithm.

Disadvantages: Cost - if using a 3rd party VPN for a small number of people
(the hardware boxes can cost $3-4K for the server plus there may be a charge
for the software on each of the home PC's/laptops).  Security - all
communications go through the Internet, anyone along the way can copy the
packets & all encryptions can be broken (given enough horsepower).  Also,
may be vulnerable to Internet hacker attacks - see advantages.

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