One of the beauties of technology is the ability to use it for the small things, as much as for the large things. Technology over the years has advanced from larger devices, and become more usable for small and even smaller devices. Mainframes, to blades, to personal computers, tablets, handsets, and to wearable devices such as wristwatches and sunglasses. The other day, I had to find a way to reach my SharePoint servers right from my Android mobile phone by installing a remote desktop so I can connect to my Windows Server 2012 hosting my SharePoint 2013. I went a bit further beyond just connecting to view, to connecting to make amendments and configure certain SharePoint applications, using touch, touch and drag, among other features. I was able to do this while still in a bus shuttle en route to some other location to do non-work related things. This is how much technology keeps making our world, work and life seamless.
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Today, I want to show you how to configure the same remote desktop, for a non-domain-based computer-to-computer small business need. A small business is any kind of business that has up to 15 employees, and in the U.S extended to below 500 employees. I personally believe that any small business that has 500 employees and below is no longer a s mall business in the IT domain sense, whereas it may be so in the legal sense. At that size, it is worthy of a domain system, except where not all the working staff use a computer. Whereas, in a domain system, we would have used group policy to make this configuration, but sometimes the administrative overhead needed for a small business to deploy a domain system might be too much of an overkill, and for cost consideration. Hence, configuring the service as we are about to demonstrate as a non-core IT person or a support staff in IT capacity can bring a lot of relief.
So, what is Remote Desktop? Remote Desktop connects two computers over a network or the Internet to allow for the sharing of desktop workspace, and associated or plugged-in devices. Once a connected session is established, you’ll see the remote computer’s desktop similar to sitting right in front of it, and have access to all its programs and files. This feature is included with all editions of Windows 7, but connections can only be made to computers running the Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise editions.
Requirements to Connect Remotely
Powered On: To be able to make a successful connection to a remote computer, the destination computer must be turned on.
Network Connection: The computer from which a remote desktop connection would be initiated from must have access to a functional network, and it must have a network connection. The destination computer must equally have access to the same functional network, have its own network connection established. The network connection can be a local area network (LAN) connection, an Internet connection, or be a part of a wide area network (WAN).
Enable Remote Desktop: The Remote Desktop feature must be enabled on the systems that will initiate the connection and the system that will receive the connection.
Permission: User permission must also be enabled on both computers or, in certain scenarios, depending on the total number of connections you need to have, you must ensure you have permissions on all the systems. For this permission to connect to be enabled, you must be on the list of users in each machine that the remote desktop will establish with.
Before you start a connection, it’s a good idea to look up the name of the computer you’re connecting to and to make sure Remote Desktop connections are allowed through its firewall.
On the host computer, or the computer on which the connection will be initiated,
Go to Start >Computer > Properties > click Advanced System Settings on the left menu >
A dialog box would pop out; Go to Remote and Click to Allow Connection from computer running any version of Remote Desktop (less secure)
And click Apply.
This is necessary because, by default, Windows does not allow remote access. You may also be prompted at this stage to create a password for your user account if you currently don’t have one. This is because any form of access to any other system across any connection requires some form of authentication or the other. The minimum requirement and standard for authentication across any platform is credential supply, which is a username and password.
If you are prompted for password, provide it and return back to this page in your setup. I will use Guest user in this case to explain the steps.
On the System Properties dialog box, shown below, click on Select Users.
In the Remote Desktop Users dialog box, click Add.
In the Select Users dialog box, click Advanced.
In the advanced Select Users dialog box, click Find Now.
In the Search Results pane, select Guest. This is to allow any guest user access to Remote Desktop. Selecting any other use would enable that specific user as well. For your small business environment, enable only the user account that you need. Click OK.
Click OK again.
Click OK again.
Click APPLY, click OK.
With this done, your system should be back to this state of nothing else on the screen, as below.
The last step in this aspect of the configuration is to log off this user, or switch user. Microsoft has done this to Remote Desktop on workstations by design as a security feature. In the Windows Server version of Remote Desktop, this is not a problem; however, for workstations such as this, it is a security feature to disallow your Windows session being hijacked in the background without your knowledge. In the workstation scenario, if someone were to remotely take over your Windows session you would know because you would have been locked out, and you can regain control by typing in your credentials, which will also lock out the hijacker of your remote session. So, this feature is a good thing and should not be considered a bad feature. However, there are third-party tools that you can use to have a remote connection and the local connection to sync and share the activity of a single Windows session, such as VNC and TeamViewer, among others. However, if you are unable to purchase these, you can use the native Remote Assistance feature.
It is very important at this stage, especially since Guest account is being used, to Turn On the Guest Account.
Start à Control Panel à Add or remove user accounts
Select Guest, click Turn On.
So, to complete this configuration step of the host computer, which is the computer that will receive the remote connection request, you should switch user.
To do this Start à Switch User
The connecting host, which is the system that will be used to initiate a Remote Desktop connection to the host computer, should equally have Remote Desktop enabled. This can be achieved by repeating the same procedure carried out on the host machine. When that has been done, if necessary, you should proceed to make the remote connection by following the procedure below.
Click Start à All Programs à Accessories à Remote Desktop Connection
In the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box, type the Computer Name (but preferably the IP Address) of the system you are trying to establish a remote desktop connection/session with. IP Address provision is faster and more reliable than hostname provision, if you have not configured your machine’s host file name resolution.
You can make additional settings modification to suit your network bandwidth connection type.
In the Experience tab, under the Performance section, you can choose any connection speed for best display user experience. For a local area network (LAN), selecting LAN (10Mbps or higher) gives a better performance with smoother user experience and full-color display, while Low-speed broadband (256Kbps-2Mbps) would give you a black desktop without colors of a typical desktop – this is to make optimal use of bandwidth.
The Display tab allows you to make additional adjustments to the remote session to fit within a particular specified size limit on the screen of the computer you are connecting from, such as full screen or minimized.
The Local Resources tab allows you to select if you need the additional internal or external devices of the remote computer to be brought to you on the connecting computer so you can use them as if it was connected to your connecting computer.
Make changes as you require and, click OK, and Connect.
You will be prompted for credentials: Provide the password for the account, or click OK if there is none.
The certificate message is a negative message bringing to your notice a problem about improper trust. This will be treated at some other time. Click Yes on the certificate page.
The remote computer will accept the connection as visible in the upper screen part of the desktop displaying the IP address of the remote computer, and present you a challenge to authenticate. Provide the Guest account credentials or, if there are none, click the arrow button as shown or hit ENTER key to login.
You are now logged into the remote computer and can work as you desire at your small business office from any computer.
To exit Remote Desktop, simply log off, which effectively ends the session, or simply click the “x” button at the top of the screen, which disconnects the session, but does not end it; it is inactive in the background for reconnection when the remote desktop protocol for the same session is initialized.