Buyers (and non-buyers) guide to secure remote access

From free tools to scalable services and network solutions, businesses have numerous options for keeping mobile and remote workers connected

It always seems to happen. You finally take a couple of days off from work and head to the beach for some sun and sand. Inevitably, someone needs a piece of information only you can provide, and it's locked away on your office PC. Is it time to pack up the cooler and head back to the car?

Not if your office computer is set up for remote access. With a remote access solution, you can easily access your PC (or Mac) and answer the urgent question, all while sipping a drink with your toes in the sand.

Sound too good to be true? It isn't. There are a number of different solutions available to help make this a reality. In this guide, I'll cover the different types of remote access solutions, their advantages and disadvantages, their technical requirements, and what you can expect as far as usability.

[ The best free remote access tools combine firewall friendliness with easy remote access and an amazing array of features. See "InfoWorld review: Free remote access tools for Windows and Mac." ]

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat -- accessing your computer from outside the physical building is not something only Fortune 500 companies are capable of doing. There are many options available, from free and low cost to moderately expensive, that will allow you to access your PC from a remote location. All of them provide you with a way to connect to your office computer, run programs, and work with your files and data -- no more copying files to a USB drive to work on at home, and no more feeling cut off from the office while on vacation. Secure remote access is something that every business, big or small, should be doing to be more productive.

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