How do I remotely access another computer?

Are you looking to connect to a remote device but you don't know where to begin? Starting your first remote desktop session using a remote access solution is simpler than you think.

There are plenty of tools you can choose from in the market, so taking a free trial first can help you test the features to see whether the software you are considering meets your needs.

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Here's how you can start your first remote desktop session in 4 easy steps:

1. Check platform compatibility

The first consideration you need to make is what kind of devices you need to connect to. Are you planning on using the solution to connect to multiple remote devices and different platforms? if that's the case, the first thing you need to do is to check whether the software supports multiple platforms, such as Windows, Mac, Linux or Raspberry Pi.

2. Download the required software

Once you have selected your remote access software and you're confident that it supports all the relevant platforms, you should download and install the remote desktop software on to the computer you want to connect to. This computer is usually called a server or client.

Then, download it on the computer or mobile device that you want to connect from, which is commonly known as the viewer.

3. Open the app on your viewer

Open the app on the device you are connecting from. This could be any devices like a desktop or PC, a Mac computer, an Android phone, an iPhone or a tablet or a Raspberry Pi..

4. Connect to the remote device

Now you can instantly connect to the remote device you want to connect to. Some software lets you connect to either attended or unattended devices, as long as the remote computer isn’t shut down.

Connecting to “attended” devices means someone has to be in front of the device you’d like to control to accept your prompts, while “unattended” means that there is no need for somebody to be present and you can remote into it any time.

If you are using VNC Connect, as your remote access solution of choice, we have specific instructions that you can follow to get started.

Read our 'getting started' guides on using VNC Connect:

Watch: how to get started with your first remote access screen sharing session


What is remote access?

Remote access is the act of establishing a connection from a device or computer in one location to view or control another device in a different location. Remote access software gives you the power to control your computers and equipment from anywhere with any device.

Read: All you need to know about VNC remote access technology

How does remote access work?

Remote access allows a user to connect to another computer in a different physical setting – either via the Internet (cloud connectivity) or via a direct network (a LAN, short for Local Area Network, or a WAN, short for Wide Area Network). 

The person using the remote viewer can do almost anything they could do were they sitting in front of the controlled computer. This includes application-specific tasks, accessing files and software, and running upgrades (provided they have adequate permissions).

If you are connecting via a direct connection, this process is different. Read more about the differences between cloud vs direct remote access connections.

Security considerations for remote access software

Security is a critical requirement for any software, but even more so for programs that enable remote connections to other devices. Many critical industries rely on remote solutions - from managing satellites and sealed scientific laboratories to aircraft-carriers and even submarines.

Multi-factor authentication, 256-bit AES encryption, password protection and granular access control are critical and standard security requirements for remote desktop solutions, in addition to cloud vs direct connectivity considerations.

You also need to think about whether your remote access solution needs to enable compliance to industry standards, such as GDPR, PCI-DSS or HIPAA, which is very common in sectors such as finance or healthcare.

Below are some more in-depth guides on all the essential aspects of remote access security:

Free guide: Remote Access Security Checklist.

Blog: All you need to know about remote desktop encryption.

Benefits of remote access for businesses

There are numerous benefits for both individuals and businesses when it comes to remote connectivity solutions. For example, a remote access software allows your employees to connect to their work devices from home on while on the road, and your IT department or helpdesk to remotely support staff and clients whenever they need assistance.

Read more about the business benefits of remote access.

Essential features of remote desktop software

While use cases can vary widely, there are the most common and critical user requirements for remote screen-sharing software are:

  • speed, performance and responsiveness;
  • ease of use;
  • security;
  • attended and unattended access options;
  • the ability to connect via the Cloud or offline, via a direct connection; and
  • whether or not the software needs to be pre-installed or not (which is important for certain use cases).
  • Basic features like file transfer, remote printing, audio, etc.

Use cases and examples of screen sharing software

Remote control software can have many different applications. IT helpdesk and tech support teams often use remote software tools to connect remotely to an office computer to see the screen, in order to resolve a technical issue, and/or to control the remote device.

Similarly, remote office workers and students can securely access, transfer, and print files, connect to a desktop, phone, tablet, or application from any location and without the need for a VPN connection. There are also many real world examples of healthcare providers using remote access to monitor medical equipment remotely, or to access patients' records while self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.

Choosing the best solution

When considering remote access technology you should start by defining the use cases necessary to meet your business requirements. Will it be used to enable remote working? Will it be only the IT team remotely accessing system resources, or teams from other departments too? You may want to ensure the solution you choose is able to support the maximum number of potential use cases in the future.

Installed VS on-demand access

When it comes to remote access, you can either pre-install the software on computers you want to control, or connect ‘just in time’ using a disposable, zero-footprint app. Some business use cases mandate that you must specifically use one of these methods; for others, it’s possible to use either option.

Pre-installed remote access enables a wide range of use cases become possible. It allows for either attended or unattended access, and can connect any time either to your own computers or to those of employees or friends.

See: VNC Connect Device Access

If you don’t own or manage the computers you want to control, then it may not be possible to install remote access software in advance. Products that only support on-demand access excel at a single use case: the IT technician offering technical support during office hours. But in this case, unattended access and direct connectivity are typically not possible.

See: VNC Connect Instant Support

Education and remote support

VNC® Connect is widely used by educational institutions and charities - from supporting internal IT systems to helping visually impaired students in the classroom. Read more about how these institutions can take advantage of remote access in education.

Remote desktop solution providers

There are numerous remote access and support solutions on the market, offering various features and benefits. Visit our remote access competitor comparison page to view information about the commercial differences between the various offerings.

Operating system compatibility

Most remote desktop solutions should provide pc to pc remote access and support at least Windows, Linux or macOS, while others will include additional compatibility like Raspberry Pi, Android, iOS or legacy platforms. Choose the solution that best works for your needs. Please note that if your use case requires being able to access or support different platforms, a VNC-based remote desktop tool is preferable to RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol)

You can try VNC Connect remote access software for free for 30 days.

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