To gain more insight for our how to rethink remote access series, we turned to IT expert Dave Dennis. He shared his thoughts on rethinking remote access planning with us. Dave is currently the Network Manager at Buckhorn Inc., a supplier of reusable industrial containers and pallets throughout the Western hemisphere.
How can you lessen the end user’s burden of managing remote communications? The key is to design your data/applications to be simple. Here are some things to consider:
1. What is the “shape” of your data and applications? Is your data stored in a lot of places? Do you need several applications to access it? Do you need applications requiring specialized installation and configuration? Or can they be accessed through simple tools like browsers? Fewer, simpler tools will work better remotely.
2. How much of your data is stored on servers versus individual workstations? Data on laptops is great for mobile users, but not for coworkers who might need access to it. It’s also bad for security–not just someone stealing it, but it’s actually more likely that data might be just lost (hardware theft, crashed hard drive, etc.). I like to ask decision makers how the company would be affected if their computer were lost–that gets their attention.
3. What is the business need for remote access? And what security levels are required? Occasional work on weekends or evenings has different requirements than people who are always on the road. Industry regulations (HIPAA, SOX) may also require certain security access and practices as well.
Lately, I’ve been gravitating toward simple devices that VPN into the network and connect to either a Terminal Server or even the user’s own desktop computer. Once the user connects, everything is where he usually finds it. The mobile devices also tend to be cheaper and simpler to configure. This is a great configuration for people with simple or occasional remote needs. It is harder to do this with people who travel a lot and have a lot of complex data/application needs.
If your data/applications can accommodate it, go with a single remote connectivity method. Easy to use, easy to support. And the more like their familiar desktop, the better.
Actually the last point might be a good technology planning goal. As virtual desktop technology matures, we may find even in-house users “remoting” into their virtual desktops on a server.