More people are now working from home than ever. Itís not necessarily by choice, given that weíre living through an unprecedented global pandemic, itís a reality that has to be dealt with.
If youíre a professional who relies on workstation computers back at home base to work, youíre facing a bit of a pickle right now. Unlike the typical desk job, which can probably be done with any old laptop and an internet connection, you have to work on a specialized, high-performance machine. It might be one installed in a server rack within the company data center or simply the one at your desk.
The problem is that youíre at home and your workstation isnít. Which means you have to find a way to bridge the gap and access your computer!
Get A Home Workstation!
Letís start off with the most obvious solution - bring your workstation home! If there is no specific reason why your workstation has to be at the office, then it may be possible to just relocate it to your home.
Alternatively, if budget allows, you can purchase a more portable workstation solution if the one at work is too bulky or complex to relocate. We sell a wide variety of workstations, which includes our Titan X4K, a true beast of a mobile workstation.
If taking your work machine home with you isnít an option, the itís time to delve into the world of remote access and remote work.
Put Together A Team Collaboration Suite
Before we look at remotely accessing your workstation itself, itís worth taking a moment to talk about remotely accessing people first. If your normal way of working involves face-to-face collaboration, then itís possible you didnít have a robust team collaboration solution in place when the lockdowns struck.
Software packages such as Slack or Microsoft Teams offer a fantastic way in which you and your colleagues can keep working with each other despite being miles apart. Microsoft Office Live or Google Docs will let you work on the same documents in real-time. Across different shifts or time zones.
These applications also make it easy to share your screen with the group, so itís a simple solution to the problem of not having physical access to team members. Also bear in mind that services like Skype can also be used to phone normal telephone numbers, after loading the appropriate call credit, of course.
Always Have A Backup Plan!
Right, at the outset of our discussion about remote workstation access thereís one golden rule: always have a backup plan! Because youíre physically distant from your workstation, there are limits to what you can do when things go wrong.
Try to plan for eventualities such as hardware or power failure. Having at least one technician on call as a last resort to get things back up and running is probably a good idea and, depending on the legal situation in your region, will most likely not violate social distancing regulations.
Essentially, there must always be some way of hitting the reset button and getting things back on track. The exact solution to this will depend on the specifics of your work, the machines and company resources. With that small piece of advice out of the way, letís see how you can hook into your remote workstation.
Cheap And Easy Remote Desktop Access
One of the fastest and easiest ways to remotely control your workstation is through Chrome Remote Desktop. This Chrome Browser plugin is pretty easy to install on both local and remote computers. They just have to both run Chrome. Once you have it set up, itís literally just a click or two before youíre operating your remote workstationís desktop.
Chrome Remote Desktop isnít really suitable for mission-critical remote sessions however. Itís perfect for workstation use cases where the machine is left to render big jobs or crunch numbers over long periods of time. You can then check in on or start the next job periodically with Chrome Remote Desktop.
Windows Remote Desktop is also a pretty decent solution and comes as a built in component of your Windows installation. You may have to use a VPN to use this application to control machines on your work network remotely.
Both of these options also let you control the remote machine from a smartphone or tablet. Just download the correct respective client app from the relevant app store of your device.
Virtual Network Computing - VNC
Do you need something more robust than Chrome Remote Desktop or the Microsoft equivalent? You need VNC or Virtual Network Computing. This solution runs as an operating system service, so it will survive reboots, driver updates and other events that would throw the previously mentioned solutions for a loop. Just make sure the VNC service is set to run at startup so that you can always log in and take control of the workstation.
We also suggest using an application like Service Protector to ensure that even if the VNC software falls over, it will be immediately restarted and made available.
Using Cloud-based Workstation Services
Why use your own workstation at all? These days itís possible to run professional applications in the cloud, using powerful data centers that rent out their processing capacity. This can actually be cheaper than buying, running and maintaining your own hardware. Depending on your circumstances. You can choose to either create an entire virtual workstation in the cloud, which you can run any software you like on, or to run specific applications offered as cloud services. Such as engineering simulations or data mining jobs.
The big advantage of this route is that you are not responsible for making sure everything works, that your data is safe or that you always have access. All those maintenance woes are left to the cloud provider and you can concentrate on getting the work done.
Get Advice From Your Software Vendor
Many professional software package vendors actually have their own custom remote access solutions. So itís worth checking with your software vendor if there are any solutions specific to the applications you run on your particular workstation. You may not need to control the entire machine remotely, but just the specific application. It canít hurt to ask!