Oct 12, 2013
I have been using Remote Desktop since the beginning of my IT career in managing server computers located at the office. This software tool has given me the benefit of working from home and providing support if I cannot go to work due to unavoidable circumstances like typhoons etc. In the past, I can only use this tool from my computer because mobile devices back then does not support this kind of software. But nowadays, the smartphones and tablet PC today has already caught up with desktop computers when it comes to functionality and features. In this post I will show you how you can remotely connect to your computer office using your smartphone or tablet device. The concepts that you need to know will be explained in detail so that you can communicate effectively with your IT Department in case your Remote Desktop connection fails.
By the way, you might be using other remote software tool that you find the most convenient for you. That is fine, but there’s no harm to discover some alternatives that you can use at your disposal. This also holds true for those IT people supporting a particular client that cannot afford to buy third party remote software tools. Having said this, this post will be limited to built-in remote desktop software that is supported by the operating system like Windows. So in this post, I will limit my discussion to Windows OS. But don’t worry; I believe that the same concept can be applied on other operating system as well.
First, you need to check whether remote desktop is supported by your computer. On computers running on Windows OS this feature is installed by default. All you have to do is to enable this feature by going to the Remote tab of your System Properties (right-click on My Computer > Properties > Advance System Settings) window. Under the Remote Desktop, select “Allow connections from computers running any version of Remote Desktop (less secure)” option. By default, any user account that is a member of the Administrators group can access a computer via Remote Desktop. In case that you need to allow other user account that is NOT a member of this group, click ‘Select Users’ button and add that user account in the list.
Second, you need to make sure that your Remote Desktop client can pass through your computer’s firewall. To check, go to Control Panel > System and Security > Windows Firewall > Allowed Programs and see if the Remote Desktop feature is allowed. To enable just click the Remote Desktop checkbox under the Name column and select whether the existing connection is Private, Public or Domain. Most of the time, your server computer’s LAN connection is configured to use Private or Domain connection.
Third, you need to know whether your company is using a corporate firewall or VPN server (or combination of both) that is placed between your office computer and the Internet. Since computers running on Windows OS are using TCP port 3389 for Remote Desktop connections, you only need to allow inbound/outbound connections via this port on your corporate firewall. But of course this is not that simple because corporate firewall can be configured differently. In this case you will need the help of your IT Department’s system/network administrator to allow this type of connection to pass through. For companies that deploy a VPN server for their remote users, the only thing that you will need is to check whether you have a VPN user account that you can use and that account is allowed for Remote Desktop connections. Once you have that resource, you need to know what VPN server (including the URL) is being used so that you can download and install the right VPN client for your smartphone or tablet.
For security reasons, the details about VPN Server software being used are being kept from everybody else in the company. So you’re really lucky if this information is available. Otherwise there’s no choice left for you but to install and try each VPN client that is supported by your mobile device. Remember that in most cases, the VPN server and VPN client should match for the VPN connection to work. For example, if the company is using OpenVPN server, then you should install an OpenVPN client.
In addition to the VPN client, you will also need to install a remote desktop client on your mobile device. In most cases, a remote desktop client can connect to almost any computer that supports remote desktop connections. Note: Skip the paragraph below if there’s no VPN server deployed on your corporate network.
To connect to your corporate network just launch your VPN client software and provide the necessary details like URL (https://server.domain.com) of your company’s VPN server, VPN user account name and password. Some VPN client allows you to choose logging in via your default mobile device’s Internet browser wherein you can provide the user name and password. If you have provided the correct information at this time, a pop up will appear asking whether you trust the connection. To continue, click ‘I trust this application’ and click ‘Accept’. Though this could be different depending on the VPN server and client you’re using the concept will be very much the same.
Finally, launch the Remote Desktop client on your mobile device to connect to your office computer via Remote Desktop. You will need the IP address of your server computer and the Windows account that has Remote Desktop connection rights. Read the third paragraph above to check whether the account you’re using is allowed to remotely connect to your server computer. If all goes well, you should be able to connect remotely to your office computer via Remote Desktop. If your connection fails, please take note that the remote computer should be online (power on and connected to the LAN) for the remote connection to work.
I hope that you have learned something from me and I wish that you can use this technique to make your IT life much easier. Have a nice day!