Network Administration: Remote Desktop Connection - dummies

Network Administration: Remote Desktop Connection

One of the most useful tools available to system administrators is a program called Remote Desktop Connection, or RDC for short. RDC lets you connect to a server computer from your own computer and use it as if you were actually sitting at the server. In short, RDC lets you administer your server computers from your own office.

Enabling remote access

Before you can use Remote Desktop Connection to access a server, you must first enable remote access on the server. To do that, follow these steps (on the server computer, not your desktop computer):

  1. Open the Control Panel and then double-click System.

    This step brings up the System applet.

  2. Click the Remote tab.

    This step brings up the remote access options.

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  3. Select one of the two Allow Connections check boxes.

    Which one should you select? If you select Allow Connections Only from Computers Running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication, you can connect to the server only from clients running Windows Vista or Windows 7. The other option, Allow Connections from Computers Running Any Version of Remote Desktop, lets you connect from Windows XP clients.

  4. Click OK.

    You’re done! Repeat this procedure for each server computer you want to allow access to.

Here are a few other points to ponder concerning remote access:

  • You can click the Select Users button to create a list of users who are authorized to access the computer remotely. Note that all members of the Administrators group are automatically granted access, so you don’t have to add administrators to this list.

  • There’s no question that RDC is convenient and useful. However, it’s also inherently dangerous. Don’t enable it unless you’ve also taken precautions to secure your Administrator accounts by using strong passwords; you should also already have a firewall installed to keep unwanted visitors out of your network.

Connecting remotely

After you’ve enabled remote access on a server, you can connect to the server by using the Remote Desktop Client that’s automatically installed with Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. Here’s the procedure for Windows XP:

  1. Choose Start→All Programs→Accessories→Communications→Remote Desktop Connection.

    The Remote Desktop Connection client comes to life.

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  2. Enter the name of the computer you want to connect to.

    Alternatively, you can use the drop-down list to select the computer from the list of available computers.

  3. Click the Connect button.

    You’re connected to the computer you selected, and the computer’s logon screen is displayed.

  4. Log on and use the computer.

    After you log on, you can use the computer as if you were sitting right in front of it.

Here are a few other tips for working with the Remote Desktop Connection client:

  • When you’re using the Remote Desktop Connection client, you can’t just Alt+Tab to another program running on the client computer. Instead, you must first minimize the RDC client’s window by clicking its minimize button. Then, you can access other programs running on your computer.

  • If you minimize the RDC client window, you have to provide your logon credentials again when you return. This security feature is there in case you forget you have an RDC session open.

  • If you use RDC a lot on a particular computer (such as your own desktop computer), you can create a shortcut to RDC and place it on the desktop, at the top of the Start menu, or in the Quick Launch portion of the taskbar.

  • RDC has several useful configuration options that you can access by clicking the Options button.