August 22, 2008, 12:19 PM —
Some people don't really want access to their remote data as much as they want access to a remote computer. They're on the road and they want to magically see their office computer appear on the screen of their laptop. You can do this, but I can't call this a best practice for remote data access.
The technology for remote desktop (which is the technical term) is included in Windows, Macintosh, and Linux operating systems. Using those across a local area network, for something like technical support, doesn't take too much work. Using this technology across the Internet, again for support, requires more work but still can be done fairly easily.
Security issues arise when you want to access a remote computer no one is using. Remote control support calls assume someone at a remote computer needs help, and they authorize access to their computer, usually by downloading a remote control application client. But to leave your office computer turned on and waiting to be controlled from afar adds two extra problems: it must be available across the Internet, and you must prove you're an authorized user to a computer without a person.
Remote control services are the least insecure method of making this work. The two most popular are GoToMyPC and LogMeIn, and they work well. There's a company here in Dallas named NTRGlobal, and they offer a similar service called NTRConnect. Yes, that's a homeboy reference. There are many more services like this. If you have one you like, feel free to leave a short blurb in the comments.
When you're somewhere else, you connect to the hosted remote control provider, give your name and password, and they will then connect you to your remote computer. The remote computer must already be on and logged into this service to be available.
And that's one of the problems I have with relying on this too often, because people sometimes forget to leave their computer on, or to connect to the service, before they leave. If this is your only remote access option, you will be frustrated at times by your own forgetfulness, I promise. I speak from experience.