What is a remote VPN

Remote control: which method is best?

Arne Arnold

Access to remote PCs is not rocket science. But there are many secure methods for doing this: Teamviewer, Anydesk, VPN, Zero Trust, Teams and Chrome Remote Desktop. An overview.

EnlargeRemote PC control over the network or the Internet ensures quick and easy access to remote computers.
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In the past few months, working from home has been a new challenge for many. Usually without much preparation, they had to access the work PC or server from home in order to continue doing their tasks. In the article "The best tools, tips & tricks for the home office", we have already shown how a connection to remote computers is established and which good collaboration tools are available. The following article builds on this and provides tips and tricks for remote access.

Remote desktop programs

Basic principle of Teamviewer and Anydesk

The first challenge when accessing a remote computer remotely is knowing its destination address. The second is to install and set up suitable software for remote access on both computers. Here we call the computer on which you are sitting, the start computer or your PC, and the remote PC is the target computer.

You can very easily set up a remote connection with a remote desktop program that gives you direct access to the target computer. The provider of the tool acts as an intermediary on the Internet and knows the destination address of your computer. As soon as the connection is established, you can see and operate the desktop there as if you were sitting in front of it. The remote desktop program transmits the image of the desktop as a video stream. A slow internet connection can therefore result in poor image quality. The bottleneck is usually the upload speed of the target computer.

Teamviewer

Teamviewer is one of the good remote desktop tools, but it only offers very limited free use for private users. You can find a field report on Teamviewer here.

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Anydesk

The very similar tool Anydesk, on the other hand, offers more generous use for private users and is also significantly cheaper with a subscription.

We present Anydesk in detail here: Anydesk - Getting started, tips & tricks for free remote PC access.

VPN Security Issues - Benefits of Zero Trust

VPN connections (Virtual Private Network) to the company server for external employees or from the home office are a technology that has been established for years and works reliably. However, it also harbors a high security risk, because as soon as the log-in data of just one VPN access falls into the wrong hands, hackers can intrude. That's why a new approach is currently developing.

Zero Trust: An alternative to the VPN connection is called "Zero Trust". Nobody is trusted and everyone has to identify and verify themselves at all times. Zero Trust is not a single tool, but a security concept. Specifically, this means: an employee's log-in data alone is not enough. The administrator must also have authorized his notebook beforehand. If the log-in attempt is made from outside of Germany, it can either be blocked automatically or two-factor authentication is forced, which is otherwise not used.

After a successful log-in, all network resources are no longer available, but only the files and programs that the employee absolutely needs for his work. Currently, two different focuses are competing in the zero trust concept: The network-centric variant focuses on network segmentation and application firewalls. With the identity-centric focus, more emphasis is placed on network access controls and identity management.

At the moment, the switch from simple VPN connections to zero trust concepts is an important topic for large companies. But private users and smaller companies can also take advantage of the concept. Ask yourself what resources need to be available for remote access. And if you cannot activate two-factor authentication for access, check regularly which log-in access is required.

VPN connections

EnlargeIn the Fritzbox you can activate a VPN server in the Fritzbox under “Internet -› Approvals ”. Together with the DynDNS service Myfritz, you can establish a connection from the Internet to your home.

If there is a VPN connection, the data is transmitted between two computers or two networks via a secure tunnel. In the post, we explained how to use VPN if your company provides it. Here are three ways you can set up a VPN server yourself.

NAS: Many NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices have an integrated VPN server. You have to activate this and also obtain a DynDNS address that you can specify as the destination address for the VPN connection. A NAS that offers a VPN server usually also supports you in integrating such a DynDNS address. The activation of a VPN server in the NAS is done quickly, but requires a lot of know-how. You can find a good overview of the necessary points for example for Synology NAS devices.

VPN with the Raspberry Pi: If you have one of the inexpensive mini computers, you can use it to build your own VPN server. In principle, this should also be possible for users who have had little experience with Linux. But then you should not underestimate the time required for this project. If something doesn't work right away, it can take a long day for the server to run. Instructions for VPN with the Raspberry Pi can be found here.

Use the VPN server with the Fritzbox: We consider this option to be the simplest solution for beginners in the subject. There are also some configuration hurdles here, but the procedure is well documented. The connected DynDNS server from AVM (Myfritz) makes the setup easy overall. The disadvantage lies in the poor performance of the Fritzbox if you connect a hard drive there directly. If you want to access your PC from the Fritzbox, the performance is better, but the configuration effort increases. You can find detailed instructions for the VPN connection to the Fritzbox here.

Teams & Chrome Remote Desktop