Remote user access and remote access are two very similar sounding phrases that actually mean very different things. In this article, we’ll show the distinction between the two terms and discuss them both in further detail.
What Is Remote User Access?
Remote user access provides users with access to company resources regardless of physical location. That means traveling employees and remote personnel from across the world can all access internal applications, corporate intranet, and any other digital service necessary to complete their work.
What Is Remote Access?
Remote access is essentially another term or alternative for remote desktop. Remote access is a way for IT to take control of an end user’s device, from anywhere at any time, with or without their presence, to troubleshoot technical problems. With remote access, IT can take control of end user devices to resolve issues and get users back up and running quickly. Rather than running into any technical problems blind or trying to get the user to screen share, IT can view and control the device in question without the assistance of the end user.
Note: In short, remote user access refers to how remote workers are able to access their work resources, and remote access is a useful ability for IT to support remote personnel by connecting to their machine without being physically present.
Now that it’s clear how different remote user access and remote access are, let’s dive into the common methods of remote user access.
Common Methods of Remote User Access
There are a handful of ways that remote employees are able to access work resources securely and efficiently, some of which are through virtual private networks (VPNs), remote desktop protocol (RDP), and secure shell (SSH).
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
VPNs are the most common method of providing remote user access. These tools establish an encrypted connection between remote users and the main corporate network. That means that any user can connect to the network securely — even if they are connecting from an unsecured public Wi-Fi network.
There are two main VPN protocols that provide remote user access:
- IPsec requires third-party client software with hardware compatibility at both ends of the connection. This increases security and reduces the overall attack surface, but it involves a more complex deployment process.
- SSL and TLS work on a much higher level of the network stack, providing security between web browsers and servers. This provides less comprehensive security on the lower layers, but makes the VPN much easier to implement.
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)
RDP provides a technical standard for granting desktop workstation access to remote users. It stores data securely on the user’s device, removing the need to store data on cloud servers. RDP allows organizations with legacy on-premises IT infrastructure to connect remote employees and have them work from home.
RDP offers flexible deployment and cost structures, but may introduce security issues if not configured properly. Ongoing hardware and versioning issues will require constant attention from IT staff, as well.
Secure Shell (SSH)
SSH is a protocol for securely sending commands on an unsecured network. It supports advanced security configurations like point-to-point tunneling, which provides data packets with additional headers that change their destination when traveling through the network.
SSH requires technical expertise to implement, and it can only encrypt one application at a time. By contrast, VPNs encrypt all network traffic regardless of the individual application sending the traffic.
Challenges and Considerations for Remote User Access
All of the remote user access solutions listed above come with unique challenges to security and usability. Your organization will need to implement the solution that augments its existing security tech stack without leading to high usage costs or performance bottlenecks.
Some of the issues that IT and security leaders often face when implementing a remote user access solution include:
- Keeping endpoints secure. Organizations must develop and deploy comprehensive endpoint security solutions to keep remote employee devices safe, especially if there is sensitive data stored on those devices. The right mobile device management solution can help maintain visibility and control over remote endpoints.
- Deploying changes consistently. Enterprise endpoint policies can be complex, and pushing changes to a fleet of mobile devices can result in compatibility issues. Security teams need to adopt a structured approach to policy management and proactively address compatibility and software issues as they arise.
- Keeping costs aligned with budget constraints. There are many different mobile device management and endpoint security vendors capable of providing remote user access. However, many offer additional features and services that raise the price of implementation, leading some organizations to pay high prices for services they don’t use.
Now that we’ve sufficiently covered what remote user access is, how it’s achieved, and the challenges of it, let’s get into the benefits of remote access capabilities and how JumpCloud can support IT.
Benefits of Remote Access
Remote access provides a wide range of benefits to organizations that have any number of employees working remotely. Most IT leaders adopt remote access technology to gain the following advantages:
- Faster response times. IT support teams use remote access to address issues as quickly as possible. Without the need to be physically present on-site, networking problems can be addressed by scalable teams located anywhere in the world.
- Reduced downtime costs. Downtime results in lost revenue and productivity. Requiring all IT issues to be addressed by on-site personnel can quickly lead to performance bottlenecks when workers are remote or complex issues arise.
- Increased productivity. Employees who spend less time waiting for IT issues to be resolved are able to spend more time generating value for the organization. At the same time, IT support staff can work more efficiently when they don’t need to travel. Remote access usage generally reduces frustration across end users and the IT team.
Remote Access with JumpCloud
JumpCloud is a cloud-based open directory platform with fully featured mobile device management (MDM) capabilities that support remote user access and enhance endpoint device security for organizations of all sizes. JumpCloud also provides network administrators with visibility and control over end user devices (i.e., remote access) through the JumpCloud agent.
Some of the features JumpCloud offers include:
- Remote Assist. Allows tech support teams to remotely view and control end user devices for troubleshooting, maintenance, and training. Administrators can access user devices directly through JumpCloud’s browser-based cloud interface.
- Unattended Access. Also called Silent Assist, this feature allows administrators to initiate remote sessions and provide support even when the end user isn’t available.
- Background Tools. This feature lets administrators conduct remote file management and other processes on end user devices directly through a command-line interface, all without interrupting the user experience.
JumpCloud supports a wide variety of devices and operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, ChromeOS, and Linux. Implementing a directory that supports all of your users and devices is essential, but it’s just as important that IT is able to help users troubleshoot technical issues on those devices with a remote access solution to keep users productive and secure. Learn more about JumpCloud’s remote access capabilities here and test them out for yourself by signing up for a free trial.