If any technology has come to the forefront during COVID-19, it’s remote access. In the US alone, remote work grew by an incredible 730% in a few short months. As the world emerges from the pandemic this trend is unlikely to be reversed with some estimates suggesting that as many as 30% of Americans will now work from home multiple days each week. Basic remote access functionality is no longer enough. Organizations worldwide now require secure remote access. So what’s the difference?
COVID-19 has created a new phenomenon: ‘Zoom fatigue’ is sweeping the world and many people will be eternally grateful if they never have another online meeting in their lives. But, they should prepare to be disappointed as workers and companies experience the benefits of remote working.
The question is not whether working from home will continue post-COVID-19, but which technical infrastructure is best to make it happen. Remote access has been around for a long time but, for the most part it’s revolved around users gaining simple access to data while away from the office.
However, this is a sea of change. When it comes to remote access, we’re no longer talking about a sales person accessing the latest pricing and availability when with a customer. We’re talking about enabling mission-critical activities to happen outside the office – often for the first time – and how this can take place securely and effectively.
Luckily, there is a mature technology available. It’s called secure remote access.
Providing a secure remote access definition
So what is secure remote access? Put simply, it’s a means to access applications and corporate resources remotely. While the majority of the new generation of home workers created by the COVID-19 pandemic may only require secure remote PC access, there are many workers whose job revolves around graphically intensive applications such as CAD, video, or analytics. This type of remote worker requires a secure remote access platform with an extensive range of enterprise features and capabilities.
To understand a little more, it may be worthwhile to break down the phrase ‘secure remote access’ into its constituent parts. Secure. Remote. Access.
Let’s start with ‘Remote’. This is the easy part as it describes the many knowledge workers that need access to their computing resources – whether that’s in the office, at home or on the road. It’s slightly complicated by today’s business models where partners, customers, suppliers and contractors will also need access to some resources at some point. COVID-19 really put the focus on this part of the term but, arguably, ‘Secure’ and ‘Access’ are more important.
Cybersecurity is a major threat for any business and this is only accentuated when you’re dealing with accessing applications and resources from beyond the corporate firewall. The best secure remote access solutions include any – or many – of a number of security services, such as endpoint security, user authentication and network access control. The goal of security in secure remote access is to ensure that only authorized users have access to the applications they’re certified to use and, at the same time, limiting the attack surface available to hackers.
While it’s important to focus on ‘Secure’, it’s more important to understand the real reason for the technology lies with ‘Access’. You’re implementing the secure remote access software so that your staff can work with the applications they need wherever and whenever they need. But this is now on an enterprise level so capabilities such as high performance, high availability, smooth scalability and data protection are paramount. In addition, the secure remote access software must work across the common enterprise computing platforms – including Windows, Linux and UNIX.
As your digital ecosystem of employees, customers and suppliers expands then ‘Access’ needs to cover how you’re going to share information and collaborate with partners.
What are the different types of secure remote access?
In essence, there are three different approaches to secure remote access. These are:
Secure remote PC access methods, such as desktop sharing, connect a remote computer to the host computer from your home or remote location. The user can then access their desktop PC as if they were in the office and use all the resources on that machine virtually.
The benefit of this approach is that the user has the resources available in a way that they are comfortable with but it’s also the most vulnerable for attack. This type of secure remote access software may provide a good option for a small number of users with simple computing needs but will not adequately support an enterprise deployment.
Virtual Private Network
A VPN creates a secure connection over the Internet by encrypting data. Most commonly, remote workers will use a secure remote access VPN client to connect to their organization’s VPN gateway to gain access to its internal network. The user is fully authenticated prior to gaining access to the VPN and their computing resources. One major drawback of a VPN connection is any remote device that uses a VPN becomes vulnerable to bringing malware onto the network it connects with.
Direct application access
The lowest risk option for secure remote access is directly connecting to the target applications. Instead of accessing an entire network, employees and authorized partners can remotely work within individual applications on the network. Whether Windows, Linuxor UNIX, secure remote access with this approach provides little risk in exposing a company’s internal network to cyber predation.
Due to the use of granular, perimeter applications on the network’s infrastructure, there are limited attack surfaces for susceptible data breaches. In addition, the protection of data and intellectual property is heightened as data never needs to leave the central servers or be exposed to those that don’t need it. This is the preferred method for the leading secure remote access solutions such asOpenText™ Exceed™ TurboX.
How does secure remote access work?
How secure remote access works is a difficult question to answer as different secure remote access solutions work in different ways. For the purpose of this article, we’ll concentrate on OpenText Exceed TurboX to show the advantages of direct application access.
It’s important to give a little context. The OpenText secure remote access solution was specifically designed for the needs of high power computing users such as engineers, designers, product developers, etc. These people relied on very high performance, graphics intensive applications and most had developed with expensive and powerful workstations under their desk.
Not only was this expensive to manage and maintain, it meant that the worker was tied to their desktop. At the time, existing secure remote access applications simply could not deliver the bandwidth or performance required for the employee to work effectively anywhere else.
The solution was to create secure remote access through consolidating all applications onto high performance, highly available servers that can be managed centrally by your IT staff. This allowed advanced techniques to be applied to ensure that the users could not only access their applications wherever and whenever needed but the level of performance was at least as good as they experience from their local workstation.
These techniques include:
Secure remote access can be used as a means to replace user workstations with a centralized application, which reduces the maintenance efforts of your IT team. You can achieve endpoint consolidation at scale. A single application can replace hundreds of workstations while still serving hundreds of users with high performance application access simultaneously.
More powerful servers enable you to consolidate your systems and to reduce the costs associated with secure remote access. This type of secure remote access solution can help consolidate multiple worldwide data centers into a few data centers that can serve multiple continents. This server consolidation also reduces the amount of software licenses you require if you employ a follow the sun usage model.
With many secure remote access solutions losing the connection means losing the work. That means, with short network outages, users lose their work and IT has high maintenance efforts with closing ghost sessions that use resources but cannot be connected to anymore. The best secure remote access solutions provide full suspend and resume support for sessions, which also works with network outages. After a network outage, users can reconnect to their existing sessions without any problems.
Secure remote access should deliver integrated high availability. The solution must be configured as a highly available server “cluster” for high availability access to remote software with maximum uptime. In this way, sessions can be distributed across live servers in the cluster using advanced load balancing. In addition, load balancing means that individual users can draw on the computing resources they need and this can scale as their tasks become more or less compute intensive.
Originally developed for engineers, OpenText Exceed TurboX is bringing secure remote access to a wide range of industries where graphics intensive computing is necessary, including financial services, utilities, energy, life sciences and healthcare. For example, a doctor may need to review an X-Ray when away from the hospital. They need access to the image on their preferred device but, more than this, they must be able to inspect the image zooming in and zooming out smoothly when looking at areas of interest.
Top 5 benefits of secure remote access solutions
There are many benefits from selecting enterprise-level secure remote access software, including:
Save IT costs through centralization
Secure remote access lets you replace expensive workstations with centrally managed servers to concentrate more users across shared resources, providing user access to applications and remote desktops at a fraction of the cost of deploying client hardware. You can leverage advanced network infrastructure, bandwidth and network reliability to implement a single, or just a few, global data centers for significant cost reduction.
Reduce pressure on your IT team
By replacing individual workstations across your enterprise with centralized applications you introduce secure remote access management that will make your IT team very happy. Management, support and maintenance tasks are greatly reduced freeing the team for higher value activities.
Build global teams and foster collaboration
Grant secure access for employees, customers and partners wherever they are in the world. You can quickly establish global teams armed with everything they need to drive collaboration and productivity. For example, the best secure remote access solutions allow teams using screen sharing to conduct virtual, hands-on meetings to increase productivity levels.
Protect intellectual property
Secure remote access means you keep all data in a central well-protected data center, instead of data proliferating on many user workstations without strong access control. This centralized approach that means commercially sensitive data never leaves the security of your corporate network, protecting the intellectual property that’s the lifeblood for companies in the manufacturing, process and financial services industries.
Accelerate product go-to-market
By delivering a high performance, scalable and collaborative environment anywhere in the world, you can accelerate product design and go-to-market with secure and unified access to all program and product information.
How to select the best secure remote access software
Like most technologies, selecting the right secure remote access will be determined by your specific business requirements. That said, there are effective and affordable solutions no matter the size of the business.
With the best secure remote access software, applications are centralized so the attack surface is minimized while you can apply advanced capabilities to ensure the levels of performance and availability you need.
In addition, secure remote access should be a long-term relationship so find a provider that understands your industry and your business.
Download your free remote access software demo of OpenText Exceed TurboX today!