Presents -- IT Information for Small Business
Working from Home
Security and Firewalls
Using Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to work from home - Pros and Cons...
RDP or Windows Remote Desktop is a popular tool for many IT people for managing remote computers on the same network.  But if it is used outside of the network what are the limits and issues associated with it?  What security needs to be in place before connecting and what are the issues if not security is in place?

Let's take a look:

Pros:

1. It's Free.  RDP is built into Windows as a service and as such is free. 
2. It's easy to set up.  Although RDP is disabled in the operating system by default, it is easy to turn on. (RDP is not available on HOME editions of Windows.)


Cons:

1. Not as easy to set up outside the office as well as it is not secure.  If you're planning to use it outside your office network (remote location), you will need to configure the remote or office location to accept incoming remote requests.  To do this you will need to know th IP address of the system you are trying to connect to, the firewall will need to be configured to point you there, and the login credentials for the remote machine. If you are not a tech savvy person, this is already a no-go.  Also, using RDP without first connecting to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or other security measures will open the door to intrusion from hackers, ransomware, virus', and much more since RDP is one of the top connections that malicious botts are looking for.  It is a probability you will get into trouble with a secure connection.

2. Not included in home editions of Windows.  If yu use a Home edition of Windows, RDP is not included so forget about it all together.  It is only included in Pro, Business or Ultimate editions of Windows.

3. It doesn't have options like remote boot and Auto Connect.  For some, a reboot of the remote system (Not server since that would affect many) RDP does not have that ability.  It also does not have the ability to reconnect on it's own.  If the connection is lost, then you will have to reconnect as if starting a new remote session.

4. The remote computer is locked when using RDP. When a RDP session is established, the remote screen becomes locked so the remote use if is unable to see anything.  This is one of the issues with RDP that has not yet been solved.  If RDP is used to for a help ticket, then the remote client is not able to work along. Also, there are not chat tools with RDP.

5. Mulitple Concurrent Sessions are not allowed.  There is a workaround for this but ther builtin tool isn't able to handle many concurrent connections with different network settings very well.

Conclusions:

For accessing your business systems remotely it is a great and frree tool.  However, without a secure connection via VPN or other means, it lacks security.  Our recommendation is to use a tool that is built with security in mind.  If you must use RDP, it is recommended to first connect to the remote network using a VPN tunnel which will set you up on the local side of the remote network, then connect RDP using the private IP of the remote network.  All traffic on the VPN is encrypted. 

Our recommendation is use something else.  Other remote access tools are built around secure connections that require software on both ends that connect to eash other directly and secure.  These tools provide many options liek remote boot, working with the remote user together, remote printing and local printing as well as file transfer capabilities.

If you need help with setting up remote access go to http://www.a-integrity.com/remote.html.