Sooner or later, people who work outside the office discover that some critical document or bit of data was left back on the desktop.
Cloud storage can help solve that problem, but remote-access apps/services connect mobile devices directly to a remote PC.
Remote control versus cloud services
Many PC users might think that cloud services have made remote-desktop access and control apps obsolete. But the two technologies are, in fact, complementary tools. Cloud storage, for example, makes it easy to sync data between your mobile and desktop computers, share files with others, and have off-site data backup to boot.
Remote-access apps let you tap directly into your desktop — or the desktop of anyone who gives permission — from a remote location. In my case, I often need to make a minor, but immediate, update to one of the websites I host. I can do so, whether I’m in my office or out on the road. Remote-access apps let me make those changes without stuffing Adobe Dreamweaver on my laptop or filling up my cloud-storage accounts with every file for multiple websites.
Microsoft included its Remote Desktop Connection app (RDC; more info) with most business versions of Windows. For example, it comes with Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions of Windows 7 plus Windows 8.1 Pro. A Microsoft download page provides a version for many earlier versions of Windows.
RDC is free, but it has some significant limitations. For example, you need to be on the same local network as the host computer (the machine you’re connecting to remotely), or the host computer must have a static IP address. Many businesses have static IPs, but most individuals connecting to the Web from home or a small business get dynamic IP addresses from their ISPs.
With a dynamic IP service, the IP address an ISP assigns to your router changes over time. If you’re trying to make a connection to the host system over the Internet, Remote Desktop doesn’t know where to go.