An introduction to remote access
Remote access is the term used to describe the act of establishing a connection remotely with a device or computer in another location for the purpose of viewing or controlling the remote device. The term 'remote access' is often used interchangeably with the term 'screen sharing'.
A common use case is when a technical support agent connects remotely to an office computer to resolve a technical issue. Or, it could be a home worker or travelling employee using their mobile device to access corporate resources while out of the office.
It’s also described as the remote control of a computer by using another computer connected over a network - local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), or the Internet.
The remote user can see the screen of and control the remote device. With the right permissions, it enables remote access to files, desktops, and applications. Actions can be performed on both attended and unattended devices.
Traditionally it has been used by IT help desks to support end users across their organization. However, it is increasingly being deployed so that home workers, distributed departments and even partners and customers can work productively from any location.
History and evolution of remote access technology
Remote access is a decades-old concept. The earliest example is from the 1950s, when terminals were connected to a mainframe in another part of a building. This was followed by the use of early modems to transmit data over phone lines. As modems became faster more data could be transferred, but the high cost of telephone line usage held back widespread development and adoption.
The advent of higher bandwidth Internet connections made long-distance remote access more practical and affordable.
The next step in the evolution of the technology was the development of virtual network computing (VNC®) in Cambridge, UK in the 1990s.
VNC technology allows one computer or device to remotely control another computer or device. It transmits the keyboard and mouse events from the remote computer to the other, relaying screen updates back in the other direction. This technology has proven invaluable for help and service desk functions and has also been integrated into a wide range of consumer and industrial products.
Today, remote access is used in many areas beyond the help desk. It supports remote working, Bring Your Own Device initiatives, remote training and collaboration across and between organizations.