What are remote access tools?

As remote access tools become part of our everyday working life, we look at what they are, how and when they’re used, and what they mean for your business security.

The genie’s out of the bottle. Since Covid-19 turned workplaces into ghost towns, remote working has switched from an occasional benefit into part of business life. And for many, they're not willing going back, at least not full time.

Before the pandemic, in December 2019, 15% of us worked remotely worldwide. Fast forward a year and that figure soared to a whopping 74%. In June 2022, 36% of us said we expected to continue working in a hybrid way in the future.

We couldn't do it without remote access tools (RATs), but we tend to take them for granted. So what are RATs, how and when should we use them, and are they secure?

What are remote access tools?

As you’d expect, they’re tools that give us remote access to a central computer, network or systems. The great part is we can do it from anywhere with an internet connection.

And there’s more to it than just working like we’re on our office computer. Collaboration tools let teams work on projects together and share ideas and resources worldwide. As well as system-based products like Microsoft or Google Workspace, you can get a wide range of specially designed, top-rated remote work tools to suit you, like Slack, Asana and Miro.

IT teams can use remote support tools to provide technical support – taking control of our PC or laptop to diagnose and resolve technical issues while we watch the cursor whip across the screen and files magically open. Remote access software is also ideal for routine maintenance, allowing system administrators to install software updates, organise network settings, and monitor system performance.

Are cloud-based access tools and remote access tools the same?

The quick answer is no. While both allow collaborative working and access to files, cloud-based remote access lets you get your files anytime using any device. With remote desktop software, you can access a specific computer and everything on it from a device with the same installed software. Which option you choose depends on your IT, your security requirements, and how you want to work.

How are remote access tools used?

Equipping your business to work remotely usually means five easy steps:

  1. Choose your remote access software. Popular tools include LogMeIn Pro, TeamViewer, Remote Desktop Manager, Splashtop, RemotePC – and many more, depending on your needs and budget.

  2. Install it on local and remote computers.

  3. Test, test, test before going live.

  4. People launch the tool on their local computer/device and log in.

  5. Work just like being in the office (only with cheaper and easily accessible coffee).

How can businesses stay secure when working remotely?

We’ve now got so comfortable with working remotely, it’s easy to forget that access management and staying secure is vital.

Hackers and cybercriminals often use RATs to get unauthorised access to a computer or network, steal sensitive information or even take control of a system and hold your business to ransom.

Make sure your remote access tool comes from somewhere you trust, and use strong passwords, two-step authentication – and a VPN.

A VPN (virtual private network) helps keep your internet connection and data confidential by sending it through an encrypted connection to a server controlled by the VPN provider. Here’s a selection.

Remind people to log off when they’re done for the day. And if they think their system’s been attacked, make sure they know who to contact. When the clock’s ticking, the last thing you need is people digging through the intranet for the details.

How could remote access tools benefit your business?

Remote access tools have soared in popularity for a variety of reasons:

  • Cost savings. Remote access tools can save money on rent, utilities and office supplies, and let you reduce office space, or not have an office at all.

  • Access wider talent. Recruit and hire the best people from anywhere in the world rather than just your local area.

  • Better collaboration. Connect with team members, partners, and customers anywhere to improve communication, share knowledge, and power innovation.

  • Greater productivity. Over two-thirds of organisations say their people are more productive when working remotely. Remote access tools also reduce travel time, and help people with childcare or elder care responsibilities to flex workplace hours.

  • Business continuity: Carry on working during unexpected events like fire or flood, power cuts or other disruptions.

  • Improved tech. As technology advances, remote access tools have become more user-friendly, reliable and secure, making them more attractive.

Hybrid and home working is clearly here to stay, helping you operate more efficiently and effectively in today's fast-paced, ever-changing environment.

Want more advice on how remote tools could help your business? Why not speak to one of our V-Hub Digital Advisers to find out more?

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