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An exhaustive guide on Remote Desktop and it means for your org
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If only all of your users and support providers were conveniently located in the same building, or at least the same time zone. With growth and success, however, comes an increasing expansion of locations your critical resources must reach.
Your users, system administrators, and IT-support providers must be able to access all of the services and resources they need to do their jobs. Your IT team members must also be able to collaborate with users and each other and to act quickly in response to support requests or threats to service availability or security. These needs are challenging enough when everyone is at their primary work location and using their usual desktop or laptop computers. The challenges multiply, however, when people are working from home or on the road on a tablet or smartphone.
How best to deliver and manage the services and resources users need, seamlessly and securely, wherever they are?
For many businesses like yours, a powerful answer is the remote desktop.
Essentially, a remote desktop is exactly what the term implies. It’s a combination of technologies that allows authorized users to access the resources of a “host” client computer or server, remotely. Users can then utilize resources on that host system as if they were sitting in front of it. Unlike other, older technologies, modern, remote desktop solutions deliver access via interfaces that can be customized for multiple device types and specific roles and tasks. Remote desktop solutions can help your business address the challenge of users’ desire for “anytime, anywhere, any device type, 24x7” access.
As opposed to most previous remote-access tools, modern, remote desktop solutions do not require users to connect directly to the corporate network. With the right remote desktop solution, users can securely access the resources they need with nothing more than an Internet connection and a Web browser. Typically, a dedicated remote desktop server acts as a “traffic cop” or portal. Software on the server manages connections to corporate IT resources and to remote users. It can also present a customizable interface to make remote access as easy and inviting as possible.
Modern, remote desktop solutions support the highest levels of encryption to keep connections secure. Some specific situations may require additional connectivity and security options, such as virtual private network (VPN) links or reconfiguration of some network firewalls. Modern, remote desktop solutions hide such details from users, making remote login and access as seamless, simple and familiar as local connections.
There are multiple reasons for implementing a remote desktop solution. According to a June 2016 Forrester Research-commissioned study, 60 percent of knowledge workers typically work at home at least once per week. In addition, data from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com lists these top benefits to remote workers and their employers.
More than two-thirds of employer-survey respondents reported increased productivity among their telecommuters, thanks to fewer distractions during the workday.
Almost half (46 percent) of respondents said support for remote work options reduces attrition at their organizations.
Both employees and employers benefit, as remote workers enjoy greater job satisfaction, healthier eating, more exercise and more time with significant others outside work.
Less commuting can reduce traffic congestion and even some air pollution, especially in areas where diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles proliferate.
Employees who telework can save hundreds to thousands of dollars per year on gas; vehicle maintenance; parking; and even food, clothing, and daycare. Businesses can save money, too.
Remote desktop support provides multiple benefits for IT and support personnel.
Support team members can diagnose and resolve user and system problems without traveling to the location of the problem. When needed, problem escalation and collaborative support can be initiated, without indeterminate waits for responses or episodes of “telephone tag.” Problems are resolved faster, a benefit to everyone involved and the business as a whole.
Remote desktop support can let IT teams deliver multimedia training, complete with simulations and interactive question-and-answer sessions wherever users or support agents need it. Those teams can then deliver content to more recipients faster, with fewer travel costs for the business and less “away” time for team members. Content can also be delivered on-demand, so recipients can consume and respond to it whenever it is most convenient for them. Remote, on-demand access can increase the effectiveness of training and mentoring efforts, and reduce the need for remedial training or retraining.
Screen-sharing and “co-browsing” features ease and speed question-and-problem resolution, and can even overcome language barriers. IT support providers can be more efficient and effective, individually and collaboratively.
Remote desktop links can provide users with secure access to data center resources, without requiring users to have specialized connectivity. Because modern, remote desktop solutions enable granular access control, the business can secure and trust their authorized user connections, and protect against unauthorized access. In addition, the use of widely available Internet connections allows the business to avoid the costs of specialized connections.
These can be managed via the remote desktop server, giving IT complete control of timing, consistency, and security of all software deployments for remote users. This improves security for the entire business, as it helps to ensure that, at a minimum, users are advised when they must install specific patches and updates to retain their access privileges. Experts around the world recognize timely patch-and-update deployment as a powerful step toward better cybersecurity.
Remote desktop solutions are powerful but are not panaceas for every IT-related challenge. There are three task types for which other solutions are more effective.
Modern, remote desktop solutions don’t rely on direct connections to company networks. The visibility they can provide into those networks is limited at best. Even if support personnel could access network management tools via a remote desktop connection, they may suffer from disruptions or limitations due to their “indirect” links and views.
Since the Internet brokers remote desktop connections, here, too, their capability to enable support personnel to see, manipulate or diagnose problems with hardware is uncertain. Also, it can be difficult to tell whether an apparent hardware problem resides with the user’s chosen access device, the system that hosts the desired resource or the hardware providing Internet connectivity.
If a user’s device or the system hosting the desired resource is offline, then it cannot be accessed via a remote desktop link. Some such devices can be configured to be activated remotely. The ability to initiate remote “wake-up” features, however, is inconsistent across device types. It can also require additional security measures to prevent unauthorized activations.
Demand for IT-powered services and support often exceeds a company’s internal IT resources. Fortunately, remote desktop support can enable your company to add external support resources transparently as needed, without disruptive changes to users’ expected experiences. Your business can offer effective, follow-the-sun access and support via seamless integration of internal and external resources. In addition, those external resources can be acquired economically, often via usage-based contracts.
Remote desktop support for external providers offers additional benefits as well.
With remote desktop support, you can customize each external support provider’s access to specific resources, for maximum security and alignment with the user and business needs.
Modern, remote desktop solutions enable your IT team to monitor resource use accurately and precisely, for better resource allocation and more accurate billing.
Since remote desktop access supports a wide variety of client devices, external support providers can supply them if that presents your business with financial advantages.
The combination of internal and external resources enables your business to deliver almost any level of support consistently, even if your business requires 24x7 access.
Once your business decides to pursue remote desktop support, you must select a solution carefully. Your selection criteria should include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
If the user experience is confusing or daunting, then users will avoid it. They might also pursue alternative “shadow-IT” or “stealth-IT” options, which IT has not approved or secured. This can put your entire environment at risk.
Every candidate remote desktop-support solution you consider must support security at least as robust as your current environment. In addition, you must scrutinize how each candidate solution manages the Internet connections on which your remote users will rely.
Specific data security and privacy issues can include, but may not be limited to, the following:
User credit card and financial data
Personally identifiable information (PII) and confidential records
Proprietary business information and intellectual property (IP)
Company financial data
Records-retention requirements (including recordings of remote desktop sessions)
Even your chosen solution for remote desktop support will sometimes require vendor support. You should ensure all your candidate solutions offer comprehensive, multi-channel and documented processes for support and problem escalation. You should also ensure that they can fulfill or exceed your internal service level agreements (SLAs) and service level objectives (SLOs).
If your environment includes support from external providers, then users can become confused if they see multiple company names or logos when trying to access “their” resources. Your chosen solution should include options for modifying “look and feel” consistently across multiple providers’ services.
Regulations, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), impose strict requirements for the protection of citizens’ PII wherever they are around the world. Penalties for GDPR non-compliance are as much as four percent of worldwide corporate revenues or 20 million Euros, whichever is greater, per incident. You must ensure that your candidate remote desktop solutions aid and do not impair your organization’s capability to comply with all relevant regulations and corporate policies.
Remote connections are often, by definition, transient and itinerant. The total number of connections you may need can increase and decrease as remote users travel, are added and are removed from your environment. How your candidate vendors license their software and charge for upgrades can determine the true cost-effectiveness of their offerings. You must ensure licenses are sufficiently flexible to avoid the costs of over-provisioning and the performance penalties of under-provisioning.
As is true for every IT investment your business makes, you must ensure your chosen remote-support-solution vendor is as committed to your company’s success as you and your team. Vendors that have succeeded with customers similar to your business are especially worthy of your consideration if they satisfy your other criteria.
Once you’ve chosen a remote-desktop-solution vendor, you should follow your proven practices for deploying any application. Pick an initial set of trial users. Inform them of their pivotal role in the ultimate selection of your solution. Implement it for them and gather their input and feedback, especially on usability and interoperability with incumbent solutions. Modify your configuration and deployment choices based on that information, and then expand to other groups of remote users and support providers. In addition, ensure your chosen vendor has proven experience supporting the implementation process at companies similar to yours.
Before and as you pursue deployment of your chosen solution, ensure your support agents receive comprehensive, timely training. Wherever possible, employ your chosen solution to deliver that training, and use those efforts to evaluate the solution’s “real-life” performance characteristics.
You should consider additions to your remote desktop implementation strategy, which may ease and speed deployment and increase adoption and user satisfaction.
Pre-load software components on user devices wherever possible. If you can, then use your remote desktop solution or some other centrally managed tool to oversee these implementations. This approach will connect users faster and easier, with fewer support requests. It will also be easier for your business to know all it needs to know to ensure only authorized software is added to its network.
Provide simple links to connect users, to enhance their satisfaction and to minimize initial user-support problems. Most modern, remote desktop solutions enable easy configuration and customization of portals for ease and control of access. Such portal features can also make it easier to merge internal and multiple external support providers by providing a common “team jacket” for all team members.
Enable users to authorize the connection or opt out without requiring IT intervention. Users should be able to connect and disconnect with equal ease. This can help avoid inadvertent use of insufficiently secure connections.
Ensure each remote desktop user can reconnect if disconnected or a reboot is needed. Wherever possible, such reconnections should be as automated and clearly documented as possible. Keeping users informed before and as such processes proceed can minimize the likelihood of panicked, confused and unnecessary support requests.
Develop, promulgate and enforce an authorized use policy for remote desktop connections. It should specify whether and under what circumstances publicly available networks can and cannot be used. It should also explicitly “whitelist” those device types, applications and resources for which remote access is allowed, and “blacklist” those that are not. Your policy should also clearly state how users or IT team members can request a change in status for a particular resource, in concert with any incumbent processes for requesting privileged-user access.
Have your support agents sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect any sensitive or proprietary data to which they might have access. This may or may not be necessary, depending on whether NDA terms were included in each agent’s original employment agreement. You may need to consult with colleagues in Human Resources, Legal, or both, to make sure you have adequate protection for both corporate resources and employees’ ability to work productively.
As mentioned previously, remote desktop support offers your users, your IT team and your business multiple benefits. In addition, there are several use cases that are strong candidates to deliver a “win” with your first deployment.
Remote IT support, including real-time collaboration, problem escalation and intelligent automation of tasks, such as trouble-ticket assignment and dispatch.
Remote mentoring and training, including interactivity and self-pacing options.
Remote sales and marketing customer and prospect calls and collaborations.
Remote user self-service, especially for frequent, mundane and repetitive tasks, such as password requests and resets and routine searches of knowledge repositories.
Multi-channel support for users and collaboration among support providers, including support for email, phone, chat, and social media.
Once you’ve chosen and successfully deployed a remote desktop solution, make sure to integrate it as closely as possible with any incumbent ITAM and/or ITSM solutionsat your business. The information about how remote users consume your IT resources will inform those solutions in ways that can improve overall IT performance and business value. In addition, incorporating your remote desktop solution with your current management tools can help ensure consistent governance of your IT environment, locally and remotely.
An important step in this direction is the monitoring and measurement of the data the use of your chosen remote desktop solution generates. Ensure that you are able to collect all relevant data, and assimilate it easily into your configuration management database (CMDB) or other repositories of management information of choice. Remote users’ generated data must be included to ensure your IT decisions are based on the most comprehensive information available to you and your team. Throughout your journey towards effective remote desktop support, your choice of a vendor will be a critical success factor. Make sure you choose a vendor who understands your needs and has proven expertise and experience relevant to your specific situation. You need more than a provider of tools and technologies. You need a partner who is committed to your success, today and tomorrow.
You’ve read a thorough description of a remote desktop solution and how it can help make your customers happier, your users and IT team members more productive and satisfied and your business more agile. You’ve also read how remote desktop support can embrace multiple device types and resource connections, flexibly and securely. All of these benefits can help your business receive more value from its IT investments, and be closer to the digital-transformation challenges facing almost every type and size of business.
To succeed with remote desktops at your business, you need the right combination of technologies, skills, experience, and commitment. Your chosen remote desktop partner must demonstrate an understanding of your business’ unique needs, and credible evidence that it has the solutions, expertise, and ecosystem to fulfill those needs.
Freshworks would welcome the opportunity to discuss your remote desktop possibilities. Let us show you what we know, what we’ve done and what we can do with and for you.
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