As with most things within IT, each answer is different depending on how you are doing each action. In this case, the answer will vary depending on how you are working remotely and what method you are using to remote in.
When working remotely, there are multiple options to choose from, however, we will focus on the most used. These tend to be the traditional RDP (remote desktop protocol) with a remote connection through a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network) or more utilising a 3rd party software application such as TeamViewer or Logmein. Both of which provide remote access securely and simply.
So how do they work?
When you set up a remote connection through RDP you are connecting remotely, usually to either a client computer (PC, Laptop, etc.) or you are setting up a remote session direct to a file server. With an RDP/VPN connection into the office, in most cases, once the connection is active, you will be able to access and save your work to the same work locations on the computer or server locations as if you were in the office. Working remotely shouldn’t change the access that you have to your company data, even though you are not physically inside the office.
Can anyone see my files?
If you have set up a VPN/RDP session then the transport of the files is generally encrypted, so in a short answer, No. (Unless of course, you are sharing your screen or have given someone access to your session), if you have not, then they will not be able to see your files in transport (editing/saving).
If however, you are asking about shared access once the files have been saved, then this will depend on where you are saving them. If you are saving them into a folder on the work server. Users who have access and security permissions to that folder will be able to access your files once you have saved them into the folder. Why have security permissions in place? Well, let’s look at an example.
If you work with the company’s finances and save to an accounts folder on the server, without security permissions in place, everyone who has access to that folder will also be able to see the files. This can be useful as multiple account users may need access to the same information, especially for team collaboration.
However, in most cases, financial information is not shared with the majority of employees at the company as there is usually sensitive information contained in them. Similarly, you may have a folder that is locked down only for yourself with no access by any other user. Once again, working remotely should give you the same access rules as you would have if you were in the office.
At Computer Rescue when we first take over a new client, we immediately put in place a security and file permission structure across all data locations. We have the client map out who needs access to what data, folders and locations and we build the security and access structure from there. (You can find out more about our IT Support services here).
Can anyone see my screen at the other end?
Another question that we get asked is; When I am working remotely and have a VPN/RDP session from home to a work device can anyone at work see I am doing on-screen and are they able to interfere with my work?
No, one of the best things about using VPN/RDP is that when you are in a remote session the target device (PC, Laptop, etc.) displays a lock screen to anyone looking at the screen from the office. You will be the only one able to see the device as normal.
What is VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network which allows you to set up a secure network connection to a device, server or another network. When used in public places, such as Mcdonalds or Starbucks, a VPN will ensure that your activity is private.
VPN instead of RDP?
When you set up a VPN connection you are connecting directly onto the network. Let’s say the office network for example. This will give you access to the same files and folders on the office network that you would have if you were there onsite. Unlike an RDP connection, using a VPN alone doesn’t allow you to remote takeover of another device, a work machine, for example, instead, a VPN connection has direct access to all available networked data folders, again ones that you have security permissions for.
Who can see the files?
Again as with RDP, no one will actually see you working on the files or see them open, however once your have save them to the correct location using VPN, only those who have the correct security permissions will have access to your files. No-one will be able to see your screen as you are simply using the works network.
VPNs can be used for several other reasons, such as geographical location, streaming media and keeping a certain degree of anonymity whilst online.
3rd party Applications
Finally, we mentioned 3rd party software applications such as Teamviewer and LogmeIn. These paid are for services which allow you to connect remotely to a device (PC, Laptop etc.), without the need to set up a VPN or RDP Session. As they are remote working, then your screen is visible to anyone who is at the same location as the target device (the one which has your remote session running). So for example, if you use the software to remote into your desktop in the office and the screen is on. Anyone in your office can watch you and see exactly that you are doing.
In conclusion, we support the use of secure connections when working remotely. If you require help in setting up a remote connection to your office for example. Please get in touch as we will be only too happy to help.
We’ve put together a couple of articles which may help when deciding to work remotely, especially from home:
Working From Home – 21 Free Resources. This article contains a list of 21 FREE IT resources which may help when working away from the office
21 Tips when Working From Home. This article contains tips and guidelines on best and secure ways to set up your remote working location.
If you would prefer to talk to someone, then please call the office on 01795 430 030. Or contact us here to request more information on how Computer Rescue can assist you.