Google Remote desktop, worth testing!
Accessing desktops remotely has been possible for a long long time. But before such tools were either insecure, not designed for cross-platform, internet use, or downright expensive. "Ages" ago we used software from a vendor called NetOp. At the time we used it there weren't many contenders or alternatives.The software had lots of good features, best traffic encryption around and a good user interface, delightfully rich in functions.
But budget cuts led to phasing out NetOp, the tool was pretty expensive and with a high number of servers with need for remote access it fell short cost-wise, and priorities changed.
Since we mostly had need for remote desktop access to Microsoft based servers on internal networks it was decided to go for Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP), a native protocol to Windows. Fair enough, it got the job done, and as long as it was used behind a firewall or on VPN tunnels it was ok although I always thought the expensive NetOp to be far better.
Today remote desktop services and applications exists in plenty. But our need for it and use have changed quite a bit, if not radically. I guess therefore it was due time for a "new" kid on the block, and the new kid is.....
Google Chrome Remote Desktop
nifty stuff and.... it gets the job done! On this page you'll find out more. The software was first released October 2011, That might have gone under the radar of most users and as early versions go, perhaps so much for the better too. April 2014 an Android version came, that of course had an impact and the user community grew. January 15 2015 it was made available for iOS devices, from before it had support for Mac computers so a solution for most of us.
Yeah there's supposed to be a Linux version too, never tried that honestly.
A 1-2-3 solution that works
Yep, installation on your computer requires of course Chrome OR its open source brother/sister Chromium, you can read more about the differences on Wiki (follow link). Registration and installation process is easy, the sort anyone can master. You create a PIN and the app is installed. The traffic is encrypted using SSL/AES so you should be safe enough as long as the PIN remains your secret.
If you have an iPhone or iPad you'll quickly find the app in the store. From there to getting it up and running AND working is a no brainer. Voila(!) have your home computer within reach from anywhere. I've tested it on a 4G mobile network (with variable speed) and must say, even as with very high graphics resolution on the computer I connected to, access speed was surprisingly good!
I doubt I'll be using the software from a mobile phone, minimum should be an iPad or, if you're on Android, similar.
But there's a local (potential) problem
Yes, and that is when your computer is sleeping. if you cannot wake it up remotely you're lost. Connection is lost. Google Remote desktop has a function that allows you to send a CTRL+ALT-DEL command. Like with other remote tools this is what is used to kick the butt of your machine. However, if your computer motherboard and/or BIOS does not support Wake on LAN you'll have a challenge. Most 10 years of age (and even older) machines have a setting in the BIOS called Wake on LAN. Enabling this shall, when you send a CTRL+ALT-DEL command from the Google Remote Desktop software, be enough to wake your computer.
However, many computers do not have a similar function for integrated Wireless Network, also called Wake on WLAN or WOWLAN. If you are using an integrated WIFI service the solution might be to get a USB WIFI device with WOWLAN support. In that case you might have to, on windows, make a registry change. Whatever you do, run tests to make sure wake-up works! Else it should be pretty straight forward :)