Remote Access Service
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Remote Access Services (RAS) refers to any combination of hardware and software to enable the remote access tools or information that typically reside on a network of IT devices.
Remote Access Service (RAS) connects a client to a host computer, known as a remote access server. To use RAS from a remote node, a RAS client program is needed, or any PPP client software. Most remote control programs work with RAS. PPP is a set of industry standard framing and authentication protocols that enable remote access.
The term was originally coined by Microsoft when referring to their built-in Windows NT remote access tools. RAS is a service provided by Windows NT which allows most of the services which would be available on a network to be accessed over a modem link. The service includes support for dialup and logon, presents the same network interface as the normal network drivers (albeit slightly slower). RAS works with several major network protocols, including TCP/IP, IPX, and NBF. It is not necessary to run Windows NT on the client - there are client versions for other Windows operating systems. RAS enables users to log in to an NT-based LAN using a modem, X.25 connection or WAN link.
Starting in the mid-1990s, several manufacturers such as U.S. Robotics produced "modem terminal servers". Instead of having RS-232 ports, these would directly incorporate an analog modem. These devices were commonly used by Internet service providers to allow consumer dial-up. Modern versions interface to an ISDN PRI instead of having analog modem ports.
RAS are now commonly used for online technical support for personal computers. The first instance of this was in 1987 in the United Kingdom, provided by a company called Jade Technologies. This used the MS-DOS based program called PC Anywhere to directly link into MS-DOS and early Windows based PC's. The company had been providing RAS support for Unix based corporate systems for 2 years prior to this.
Benefits of Remote Access
- Improved productivity – personnel can work from home, hotels or anywhere where there is internet access. It’s easy to access vital information such as documents, email and even applications that reside on the company’s server. People no longer have to wait to get in their office before being able to access and read emails.
- Personnel can continue working on projects from home.
- Increased profitability. People can respond to emails and customer requests quickly, and regardless of whether they are travelling or not. This, as a result, can improve sales performance and customer care.
- Quality of life. It enables people who perhaps live a long way from their office to be able to maximize their days without necessarily spending hours travelling to and from the office. People do generally appreciate the flexibility that remote access systems give them.
- It also helps attract talented workers who perhaps work too far from an organization’s HQ to be able to commute on a daily basis.
- Retention of valued employees is improved. For example, a person who needs to move home to another area can still continue to work for the company because distance is no longer an issue.
- Improved efficiency. Personnel can stay in touch with their company’s email and developments regardless of location and time zones.
- Computer systems can be managed remotely. This enables experts to access computers to resolve potential technical issues without the need to be on site.
- Eliminates the need to synchronize files and other data between a person’s laptop and desktop PC.
- Lower office overheads. Remote access systems enable companies to potentially use smaller offices than if all employees had to be in the office at the same time every day.
- It is not necessary to carry a laptop to gain access to a network. It is possible to gain access to an organisation’s network via any third party PC or other device so this negates to need to carry a laptop all the time.
Pitfalls of Remote Access
- Lag time. Using remote access software can be a little slower than actually using your own PC because every key stroke and mouse movement needs to be transmitted to your PC and then back.
- Remote access systems are not usually secure so this can be an issue if you are transferring sensitive information. It is possible to encrypt the information or use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
- Introducing remote access can also cause management issues in terms of productivity, for example, as it takes a certain amount of self-discipline to continue to be effective.
- Not all people enjoy working from home all the time as they might enjoy the stimulus and interaction of office life.
- Additional hardware maybe required (e.g. VPN appliances and firewalls) and this may be costly, so this needs to be taken into consideration from an investment perspective.
- Dial-up connectivity, not based on centralized control and least preferred from a security and control standpoint, is an organization's server whose operating system is set up to accept remote access, which is referred to as a remote access server (RAS). This is a very difficult method to control from an auditing perspective.
- Routing and Remote Access Service