There is no shortage to the number of methods one can use to remotely access another computer. Now I’m not talking about any kind of Spyware, but rather remote control software or services which are perfectly safe, legal, and on the up and up.
If you are planning on connecting to your office PC remotely, please first check with your IT department’s security policies to see what is and is not allowed before installing anything on your machine.
Method #1: VPN to work network
VPN isn’t really a way to remotely access your PC’s desktop, but it will give you logical access to your work network. From there you can access files and other network resources as if you were in the office. This is the slowest of all three methods since every file you open first has to be downloaded over the internet. But if configured properly, this is a very secure way to access your data remotely.
Many router/firewalls have built-in VPN host software built-in, to make it easy to connect remotely. In this category I generally recommend hardware firewalls from Astaro which are fast, very secure, and have lots of fantastic features (such as several VPN protocols). If you don’t have this level of functionality, or want some additional functionality there are many other VPN options out there, like OpenVPN. If you are uncomfortable in the world of VPNs but still want the security it provides, then check out Hamachi from the people at LogMeIn.
Method #2: Remote Desktop Services (RDS/RDP or Terminal Services)
Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection comes with just about every copy of Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. The newer versions of the Remote Desktop Connection software even allows for the connection to be encrypted (if supported by the host). There is a big limitation to this, in that the incoming port (3389 by default) has to be opened on the firewall or router, and most often incoming rules have to be created. This means it is often difficult to do this without the assistance of an IT Pro. Often times this method is used in combination with a VPN connection for better security.
Method #3: 3rd Party Utilities or Services
There are a number of 3rd party utilities and services which will allow you to access your PC in a secure manner from just about any PC or laptop with internet access. One of the most famous is GoToMyPC by Citrix. For as little as a $9.95 monthly fee you can use this service to access your desktop, copy data, and print as if you were sitting in your office, but all from the comfort of your living room. If you’re looking for a free option, then LogMeIn might be a good choice for you. If you don’t mind giving up the file sharing and printing capabilities their LogMeIn Free service will give you the remote access service you need.